Friday, September 06, 2013

The Grand Drama of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning

There has been a recent brew-ha-ha in the ultrarunning community surrounding The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning that began with the fact that Nick Clark and Ian Sharman are both running the races that make up the Slam, are possibly competing for the fastest cumulative time running those races and that Nick decided not to pay the Slam entry fee because he thought up some better ways to spend $80 and didn't feel the need for any additional hardware.

Honestly, I seriously doubt that Ian feels the need for any more hardware or validation either.  The man can the wind.  Maybe was just sitting around and simply could not figure out what to do with the $80 that was buring a hole in his pocket and simply said, "I think I'll just mail it off to Stan Jensen and the Slam."

In fact, now that I'm at it I have a little bone to pick with Ian.  It just so happens that when I had my amazing sub-24 hour run at Rocky Raccoon Ian was busy smoking the old course record that had stood forever and thus I ended up with a crappy percentage rating on Ultrasignup for one of my best races ever.  Thanks for that Ian.

Anyway, the actual furor was kicked off by the little notice below:


The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ Committee and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run Committee do not endorse, recognize, or ratify anyone or their times involved in the so-called “unofficial” grand slam of ultrarunning. Likewise we do not support, encourage, or sustain anyone involved in this pursuit.

We continue to recognize, applaud, and award the runners who are legitimately registered in and officially complete The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™.

We also remind all who are observing or otherwise involved that the term “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™” is a trademark of The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ entity, and only those who are official entrants and finishers of The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ are entitled to use the term “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™” in whatever form (including in any form that might cause trademark confusion) in connection with their running endeavors.

I haven't the foggiest notion why this message was felt necessary and I don't remember the little "TM" next to The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning last year when I did it but whatever, that was the match that lit the powderkeg. (actually it's likely that most people could give a crap its just a vocal minority on the ultralist that are going banannas about it.)

As the debate, actually I should say diatribe, raged on I felt increasingly complelled to jump in because it seemed to be turning more towards a "What a rip-off" type deal along with the usual "They are ruining/co-opting/profiting from our sport" types of arguemnts.  I saw the "what a rip-off as an oppertunity to state some facts about what I personally recieved for my $80 and here it is.

As someone who completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in 2012 I can tell you what I got for my $80 in 2012, I have no idea if this changes from year to year.  You’d have to ask Dan Brenden who has completed the Slam more than any other person.

To begin with, I expected nothing but “an award” and I had no idea what that was and I really didn’t care.  I figured it would be something that would commemorate the occasion of finishing and that seemed fine to me.

Stan put together an e-mail group for all the slammers that year and sent out an introductory e-mail as well as a group e-mail with our WS pictures so we could have some chance at recognizing our fellow Slammers on the course.  He also sent out various other alerts and well wishes.  The intent of the list was to try and build a sense of community amongst the Slammers.  My recollection is that few people participated in the e-mailing but there was sporadic traffic among the group.  The guys (we started with one female and she DNFd at WS so I never got to connect with her) I connected with most were the ones who I ended up running relatively close times to and it seemed like the top three runners in our cohort would hang with each other as well so the community part was probably more based on running ability and who you ended up bumping into on the courses.  Anyway, I liked that part and the email group helped make that connection.

Stan also made the attempt to hook up with us at the finish line of WS and Wasatch.  He happened to be able to check in with me on both occasions, asked how I was doing, gave me a “congratulations and job well done”.  That was nice too.  I have no idea if he met up with everyone, or anyone, else so experiences may vary.  It was a surprise at WS because I wasn’t expecting anything really.  It was kind of like getting a birthday card from your insurance agent; a sort of “huh, that’s nice, I guess I wouldn’t have expected that” type of feeling.

If you completed the Slam you received.
1)      A trophy (the award).  It’s a kind of stylized Eagle head on a square base that has a little placard on it with your name and Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, maybe something else I don’t remember right now.  It’s maybe six inches tall and the base is maybe 3.5 inches per side.  I remember getting it and immediately thinking “there’s no way in hell that the TSA will let me on the airplane with this thing.  It’s heavy and has a couple serious points on it.”  TSA did let me on the plane with the trophy despite the fact that it’s one of the most dangerous looking things I’ve ever laid eyes on and could seriously do some damage.
2)      A polo shirt with “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Finisher” embroidered on the left breast.
3)      A matching visor also with “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Finisher” embroidered on it.
4)      A lapel pin.  For some reason though I think the pin was a Wasatch pin.  I haven’t looked at it since I received it.  However, I don’t think any other Wasatch finishers got one.  I know I didn’t get one when I did Wasatch the year before and was not in the Slam.
5)      We were greeted and congratulated by Tom Green, the original Slammer.

And yes, you even get your name posted on “the list” along with others who paid their fee such as:
2006 Darcy Africa
2004 Scott Jurek
2003 Lisa Smith-Batchen
1998 Pam Reed
1998 Ann Trason
1995 Gordy Ainsleigh
1990 Dick Collins
1989 Helen Klein
1989 Marshall Ulrich
(Ok, I really don’t know when the fee was instituted so maybe some of these folks got in free.)

Is this an $80 value? Sure, why not, who knows.  But more to the point, it was an $80 value for me even if all the crap listed above was free and Stan and the Wasatch committee sat around laughing their asses off and smoked my money like a big fat cigar.  I like my little awards and recognition, it’s kinda’ cool and this is something I wanted to do.  Does anyone but me give a crap, I hope not.  People should be looking to their own lives trying to figure out what would be kinda’ cool for them and then they should go do that thing.

As far as I’m concerned the year 2012 was own secret running Nirvana.  I ran Boston for the first time ever.  I ran Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch and nobody, no circumstance, no change can ever take that from me.  Not terrorists, not corporations, not race committees and when I am dead and gone I still will have done these things and in this moment, I think that’s kinda’ cool.

Oh, I almost forgot, I have also apparently recently received the legal right to use the term “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning” for my $80 so you see, it’s the gift that just keeps giving.


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