The Race Director Perspective: Telluride Mountain Run

This past weekend saw the inaugural running of the Telluride Mountain Run in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. And while it would seem there is a new race coming onto the scene every week we thought we might bring you some insights from the organisers perspective. Why? Well because most RD’s put on a race at the end of their running careers with years of experience on what makes for a good event carved from their own participation.

What is different with Reese Ruland and Dakota Jones is that they are in their early 20’s, and although they are globally recognized as accomplished ultrarunners this is their first ever time organizing a proper race.

Reece and Dakota
Reece and Dakota

Marcus caught up with Reese and Dakota this week once the dust had settled from a sleepless weekend.

The Telluride Mountain Run is a 40 mile race in the San Juan Mountains above Telluride, Colorado. With minimal aid, runners navigated old mining roads, singletrack and alpine tundra over mountain passes at more than 13,000 ft. T-rad is extremely difficult, and the front of the race is highly competitive. But the focus of the race was on the experience: the burn of high elevation, the striking colors of the mountain environment, and the reward of finishing right where you started.

Tell us where the idea for the TMR came from?

It was a collaborative effort between Dakota and I. We both had an idea of creating a race at some point in our lives. We figured that if we worked together we could create a better race.

Why did you decide to get involved in putting on a race, what motivated you, was it money, honour, prestige or just a charitable inner belief you wanted to do it ?

I wanted to host a race because it sounded fun and challenging. I’m very detail oriented so planning sort of plays into that strength. I planned a “Fat Ass” race (a race where you don’t need permits, no one pays.. unofficial…) and I loved it. Hosting a real race was the next step.

How long was it from concept to reality ?

Dakota and I brainstormed the idea in November of 2012 and saw it come to life shortly after. When the race happened, it was surreal. We couldn’t believe it was actually happening.

Where did you start ? What was the first thing you did to get the race off the drawing board and into people’s minds ?

We started with the course. If you don’t have a killer course, people won’t want to be at your race. The San Juans are a perfect venue for a mountain run.

Not only did we want the course to draw runners to come out, but we wanted an amazing town fit for hosting a race, which is why Telluride was perfect.

It is a quintessential mountain town, nestled amongst towering peaks. The vibe of Telluride also fit our race well. It is a very giving and supportive community that has the infrastructure to host large events.

You co produced the race with Dakota Jones, what was he like to work with ? How did you divide up the roles and responsibilities ?

Luckily Dakota and I had the same vision and goals for the race, so when we had to make decisions we usually agreed with one another. This compatibility also allowed us to give the race its own personality which we were able to have fun with.

I don’t think we divided up the work. Both of us sort of fell into jobs we were good at.

For instance, I’m good at spending money and Dakota is good at keeping track of how much I’ve spent. Who doesn’t get excited for buying mass quantities of paper towels?

You are quite young to be doing this sort of thing ? Did you ever stop and question this ?

I’m glad you’ve called me young, Dakota keeps telling me, “you’re basically 30.” (I’m 25!) I didn’t question this, but I think the fact that two 20 somethings were organizing a race caused some to pause and think, “Seriously?”

That being said, we were had a huge support system of people who believed in us. For that, we couldn’t be more thankful.

What is you running background?

I started running before I could walk. That’s what my mom tells me. I ran very competitively in high school (XC, indoor/outdoor track). After high school I moved away from middle distance running and merged into ultra running. I ran my first ultra the day after my 20th birthday. (The JFK 50)Grigne02

Do you think females make better RD’s and why ?

I’d like to think I’m a way better RD, but I’m not sure that is the case. I honestly couldn’t imagine trying to successfully pull of directing an ultra without the help of Dakota and the numerous volunteers that helped.

What was the best thing about the race ?

I loved talking to the runners. Directing a race has allowed me to become more enmeshed in the ultra community. It has been very rewarding to hear the stories and experiences people gained during our race.

What was the worst thing that went wrong before during and after ?

A few of us ran the course in segments several times before race day to ensure it was marked well. Each time it appeared that in the areas most trafficked by people, course markers kept getting pulled down. This was pretty frustrating. Next year we will wait to mark those sections. During the race things went well. Minus the weather. It was sunny, then windy, then very rainy. And then sunny. And then snowy. Yes, snow in August. It made for an epic day. After the race I think the awards could have (should have) been done entirely different. The torrential rain made the whole ordeal a bit chaotic.

Would you do it again?

Yes! I want to host this race again and perhaps others. Does Australia need a new ultra!?!

Tell us how the race weekend unfolded, who won, who competed and any other little anecdotes that made you smile ?

Paul Hamilton won the 40miler in a time of 6:53. Bethany Lewis was our first female for the 40m in a time of 8:10. Cameron Clayton and Ellie Greenwood took the wins for the Hill Climb.

There were funny things happening all day that made me smile. The hill climb, a 5 mile ascent that gains nearly 4k of vert before runners go right back down,  nearly stole the show for me.

At the top of the Hill Climb we were serving pancakes and mimosas. Apparently quite a few of them stopped in for a treat. The Hill Climb also hosted our youngest runner, Simon Kearns. 13 years old and finished in a time of 2:01. He  was told not to stop for an alcoholic beverage. I loved the start. My sister played a beautiful piece on her violin before we sent the runners off into the backcountry. It really set a wonderful tone for the event.

What improvements would you bring in for 2014 ?

More mimosas. Oh yes, and I’d change some of the aid station locations, change the awards and try to host a larger event.

What would you say to those from overseas as to why they should put this race on their bucket list?

There is nothing else really like it. The area is unique and hard to describe how spectacular it is unless you come experience it. Next year we plan on having a slightly larger more competitive event, but I think the thing that will draw people to Telluride is the course. It is challenging and beautiful. Exactly what an ultra should be.

Did you have a mentor/advisor ?

Some people say it is best to learn from experience. Well we were able to skip out on a few mistakes first time RDs make because of the advice from a few very notable RDs: Karl Meltzer (Speedgoat), Greg Poettgen (former Moab Red Hot director), Roch Horton (On the Hardrock 100 board), Pete Stevenson (Quad Rock 50 and BlueSky Marathon).

And Dakota’s thoughts on how it went?

He thought it was really well. I could make up a quote where I shamelessly have him doting me with praise, but I’ll spare your readers. Dakota was so wonderful to work with. On race day he must have driven an ultra distance himself constantly running errands, checking on aid stations etc.. It was a team effort. Without one another I don’t think it would have been a very successful event.

Best piece of advice you were given ?

Get good people to help. Our volunteers and sweepers were top-notch. Dakota and I also enlisted the help of our families, who were incredible as well.

What advice would you give to aspiring RD’s

Don’t have a real job while putting it on, your personal life will go down hill, have a house to hold all of your race supplies and definitely don’t do it for the money. Once you have that in mind, know that all of your work will pay off and it is totally worth it in the end.

What is next for you ?

I need another race to direct. I’m lost without it!! Also, next year is going to be awesome.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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