Bandera, Black Canyon, and the future of ultrarunning

Golden Ticket races have kicked off with a bang this year, with both Black Canyon and Bandera reaching the two largest audiences Aravaipa Running has ever produced.

As far as live streaming of running goes, both events also hit some serious highs (even despite some patchy footage at Bandera), with much in the way of pre-race hype and post-race discourse to go around. These have all been essential elements to the formula and resounding effect behind Bandera & Black Canyon.

When it comes to races around the world, The Golden Trail Series has quickly entered the scene as the clear and undeniable leader in producing live racing footage, and overall coverage of the sport from an entertainment perspective.

But I’d go as far as to say that they haven’t quite had the same kind of pre-race buzz that Singletrack and others helped to produce in preparation for Bandera & Black Canyon. There’s not been a Leah Yingling spewing off facts about every runner on the start-list. There’s not a David Roche or a Brett Hornig musing about the training methods of their runners in the race. There’s not this in-depth interview process of multiple athletes across multiple platforms, hosted by former Golden Ticket winners. There’s not this same kind of Freetrail Fantasy hype around making predictions and investing in the experience even before the race begins.

The post-race press conference was even something special, with athletes sitting down together to dissect the race, scrutinize over what happened, and celebrate their accomplishments. In most sports, what you often see is pundits analyzing the event, as they try and get inside the minds of the athletes and coaches. But under the formula Aravaipa and Freetrail used at Black Canyon, it was the athletes themselves that gave significant detail into everything that transpired. This was cooler than the ice athletes used to regulate their temperature on race day, especially for a sport that has had very little coverage over the past decade.

The fact that so many people are tuning in to see these multi-hour races (or at the very least listen to it like a radio show) speaks volumes to the potential for livestream coverage of trail racing to only sprint off to the next vertical climb from here.

Now that these races have started to accumulate such cool pre-race buzz, it will be even cooler if the Golden Ticket scene and the likes of Aravaipa and Freetrail can take notes from the Golden Trail. The post-race recaps of their events, not to mention the documentaries and athlete interviews, have all been absolutely outstanding. Companies like Freetrail and Aravaipa have all the tools to create something similar. They could easily have a David Hellard-type get in front of the screen mid-race and break down what’s happening, for those that are reliving the event after the race.

While it’s true that the folks over at Golden Trail have more resources, sponsors, and crew, there’s nothing stopping the likes of Freetrail, Aravaipa and Singletrack from combining their resources together and creating a whole entire documentary series or 23-26-minute recaps of Golden Ticket events in a similar vein. They’ve already started with highlight reels and post-race press-conferences, helping to keep running fans engaged beyond just the race itself. This is wonderful, and running fans like me are only going to want more as these Golden Ticket races garner greater attention.

The running community in the States have stumbled upon something truly special with the hype around Golden Ticket races leading up to Western States. It’s truly wonderful to see the sport grow in this way, and there’s so much potential for these Golden Ticket races to be produced in a similar vein to Golden Trail and acquire all the similar hype. Canada meanwhile should get on board and create their own national series, as our athletes continue to garner legitimacy on the grand stage at Western States and UTMB. For now, we have to celebrate what the likes of Singletrack, Freetrail and Aravaipa are pulling off, and use it as a model for what’s to come in our sport.

Thanks for reading & see you soon!

Strava Profile | Rhys Desmond


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