It’s official kiddos—the Birmingham Ultra Trail Society is a badass trail community that is taking the southeast by storm! We held our first race last weekend, the Bearly Ultra, Cub Half Ultra, and Wolfpack Relay, and it was a huge success. A team of BUTS had been planning the race for a few months now, and it was a great feeling to watch our baby grow from an idea over beers into a fun event that had people raving. *tear*
Itching to plan an ultra of your own? Want to challenge the BUTS for the title of best trail group? Here are some tips:
- Make the race pleasantly difficult—We wanted to hold an ultramarathon—but barely. So we made it 27 miles, knowing that it’d be many runners’ first official ultra. The goal was to make the course manageable, but not easy enough that the more experienced runners would get bored. We held it at Red Mountain Park, known for its beginner-friendly trails. But we also threw in some new trails and about 3,000 ft. of elevation gain to keep runners on their toes. And by offering a half marathon and relay option, all levels of trail runners could join the fun.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff—It’s a race. There will be a lot of moving parts, and a lot of running bodies. Odds aren’t in your favor that things will go 100% perfectly. But that’s OK! Trail runners are a laid-back breed. We adapt easily. Race day dawned with rain and unseasonably warm temps—not ideal conditions. We also ordered race shirts that looked great in the box but were obscenely too small. So we ordered larger shirts, and now many BUTS children are wannabe ultra runners. As long as you don’t forget something important like Gatorade or beer, it’s all good.
- Get an army of kickass volunteers—Despite all the efforts that go into planning, your volunteers can make or break a race. Trail runners are known for two things—having a good time and giving back to the community. Tap into them, and you’ll likely get more volunteers than you know what to do with. Spending a day volunteering and helping your fellow runners is almost as fun as running yourself. Sometimes more fun. We had no shortage of people willing to cook food, work an aid station, or sweep the course.
- Give the runners a good time—It’s humid, raining, and you’ve already been running for three hours. What do you need? Watermelon, Mountain Dew (or beer), and twerking volunteers. All guaranteed to make you have a great race. BUTS became known for their epic aid stations at the Pinhoti 100, and we now have a standard to uphold. I worked the Tower Aid Station, where we blasted music and greeted runners at the top of a steep hill with bacon quesadillas and killer dance moves.
- Party like it’s 1999—And to top off a great day of racing and volunteering, kick off those dirty trail shoes and celebrate a job well done. It allows everyone to swap race stories, and you get to play my favorite game, “You’re clean, don’t smell like sweat, and have on normal clothes—what’s your name again?” When our Race Director Dan’s duties were over, he donned a chef’s coat and invited all the runners to his house for a BUTS Christmas party.
Overall it was a great day and we’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. BUTS is already planning some fun events for 2014—come to Birmingham and join in the fun!
More shots from the race: