Is trail running becoming too commercialized?

Here I am again contemplating another topic for the Trail Runner Magazine Blog Symposium that, in my mind anyway, doesn’t have a cut and dried answers. Is trail running, and in particular trail races, becoming too commercialized…yup, some events certainly are while others have maintained their low-key and grass roots mentality. So I guess you have to look under the hood a bit further to get your answers.


Yes, there are races that are now known far and wide, even to non-trail runners…Western States, Hard Rock, UTMB, etc. and there are races that now have large corporate owners…Leadville with Lifetime Fitness. These have become somewhat commercialized, but this doesn’t effect the average trail runner at all, and it certainly doesn’t effect me. I will in all likelihood never run one of these big, brutal and spectacular 100 mile races, but they are there and a magnet for those that can strive to achieve at that level. Yes, I’m running a race in Leadville this year (the Heavy Half) so I’ll get a first hand look at how the “commercialization” of the Leadville Race Series looks like, but even if it resembles a massive road race, it won’t bother me. Luckily most trail events are limited in the number of entrants which helps curtail the insanity of mass entrants.

Like anything else, you can get out of trail running and racing what you want. There are certainly enough low key and local events around so that anyone can avoid something they deem commercial…and if that still isn’t your cup of tea, you can still slap on your running gear and just head out on your own.

Any perceived commercialization of trail running doesn’t have to impact you if you don’t want it to…do your own thing and enjoy the trails.

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2 thoughts on “Is trail running becoming too commercialized?

  1. Bill says:

    The decisions are tough for every event. Pay the sometimes excessive entry fee in return for a T shirt, free water, and mediocre food. Or just go out and have fun unsupported. I often will choose the event because I enjoy the atmosphere.

    • geoffspakes says:

      I’m with you Bill, the only thing I care about is the atmosphere and camaraderie of the event. I have enough t-shirts already, only rarely do I get a really cool one that I like at a race.

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