Is Equinox Jumping the $hark?
When I first got here five years ago and ran the Equinox, I thought wow what a quaint and unique community event, not to mention--Whoa, what a tough course for a marathon. Things have changed some since then, including my attitude. Although I still enjoy the event and look forward to participating in the relay this year. I'm not sure if the future quaint will continue to apply.
First, a few years ago, they brought in Team in Training. Now I'm all for increasing awareness and fund raising for important causes such as the Leukemia Society, but--as an old school runner and something of a purist--the influx of these groups has also sidetracked marathoning. So instead of a race, it becomes an 'event' and sometimes these events become so popular with fund raising groups that there are fewer opportunities for runners to enter, not to mention skyrocketing entry fees.
For example, big, no HUGE marathons like Chicago with more than 40,000 entrants fill up 6 or 7 months in advance, with many, maybe most of the tickets bought up by fund raising groups. It's become a huge industry unto itself, and the quality of experience as well as opportunity to participate has declined.
I'd hate to see that happen to the Equinox. At some point, maybe when we hit 1000, 1200, or 1500 runners, they're going to have to limit the number of entries. All that it would take is an article in Runners World to gain big interest from the masses in the lower 48 looking for a unique adventure race. And what happens if charity groups start to comprise 50% or more of the entries? Limited supply (space on the course) will drive prices up, and the quality of experience will go down and we may have to go to a lottery or merit system. Meh, to that.
Furthermore, I am utterly baffled at the addition of the "Equinox Ultra" 50K. What are they thinking? Adding a whopping 4.8 miles on the Out and Back for those who don't think that 26.2 with 3,300 ft of elevation gain and loss is enough? Based on the fact that it sold out (limited to 50 this year) before the end of early sign up, this might become a popular event.
I don't like it because it dilutes the competition and adds yet another layer of distraction. What next, the Boston Marathon 55 km (or 50 mile) ultra for those who don't meet the qualifying times, or not willing to do the 'sprint' race of 26.2 miles? I'm all for innovation, and an ultra on the Equinox course is actually a good idea. I'm just not in favor of adding a few extra miles to the marathon.
Could it be money for the foundation that supports the Equinox, or just a desire to spread the out the competition?
What about volunteers who will now need to be out on the course for yet another hour, or more, to make sure all the runners, walk-joggers, and walkers make it through?
How about an ultra on a similar course, but with some unique differences, and on a different day?
Well, my opinion will be meaningless and the ultra is likely to be here to stay. The ultra will grow, fund raisers will buy up entries, some day the Equinox 'brand' is going to go nationwide, and it’s going to be more difficult to participate. The Equinox will gain in popularity, but to the detriment of the race's charm and colorful history.