Trail Racing Is Going Corporate—Is That a Bad Thing?

As more corporations are getting into the trail racing business, a culture clash takes hold.

From Runner’s World
By Amanda Loudin

Photo credit: Getty Images/Nastasic

Michael Strzelecki has been running trail races since 1985. He considers himself an outdoors lover at his core, and the fact that he can join other like-minded souls at trail races is icing on the cake. The 55-year old Maryland-based energy industry analyst hits up several low-key, traditional style trail races every year.

Jenny Medvene Collins, a 33-year old teacher from Massachusetts, is at the other end of the spectrum. Running for the past decade, she traveled across the country to try her first trail race, a North Face-sponsored event full of costumes, bling, and “excitement.”

It’s a tale of two cultures—and they are clashing. With the addition of corporations like North Face, Spartan, Xterra and others to the trail-racing scene, events on dirt now come in a wide variety of packages. But what does that mean for the sport?

A new kind of trail racing
Strzelecki remembers fondly the days when trail racing meant no more than a few dozen people showing up to take on a challenging course and share a beer afterward.

“We didn’t even talk about our times or care if we got on the podium,” he says. “We simply wanted to have fun. The races were natural experiences, with no bells and whistles, and the race directors understood the runners.”

Now, trail racing is growing—thanks, in part, to corporate backing helping to draw in more runners.

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