Will trail running ever become a mainstream sport in the U.S.?
You know...the kind of mainstream sport that pays professional trail runners well, gets media coverage, and has a massive fan base.
🏃♀️Runner Grayson Murphy and The Trail Team founded by four-time national trail champion Andy Wacker are on a mission to make it happen.
👉I sat down with Grayson to get an insider's look at The Trail Team and the big goals they're chasing to help the sport.
If you’re a trail runner, you might have watched the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) or a Golden Trail Series live stream.
And if there’s one thing you notice as a major difference between American and European trail running events, it’s the:
When compared to their United States counterpart, European trail racing is notoriously glamorous.
That’s why Andy Wacker, former All-American distance runner for University of Colorado (CU), and current mountain ultra-trail (MUT) professional, decided to act.
Wacker brought together a cohort of three other established professional runners including:
The goal: to create a powerhouse mentorship program and facilitate the advancement of sub-ultra trail running in the United States.
The Trail Team, abbreviated as TTT, supports six sub-ultra athletes with:
But Wacker didn’t stop there. He also implemented the:
I sat down with Grayson Murphy to discuss TTT and her role.
“Andy had the idea to bring together a sub-ultra community in the U.S.," says Grayson.
"If you go to Europe, people know what it is! We want to make sub-ultra trail something that people want to do!”
“Andy had the idea to bring together a sub ultra community in the U.S.,” says Grayson.
"TTT is the first step in his larger vision to bring trail athletics to a higher level, rivaling that of European trail running."
"It is designed to bring both financial and professional development resources to young, unsponsored, aspiring trail running athletes.
The Trail Team 2023 athletes include:
With only six available slots, TTT had a rigorous selection process complete with:
Grayson said TTT received 150 applications, and only 20 were selected to move on to the interview.
Andy and Grayson sat down with the 20 athletes and recorded their interviews to be sent to the selection committee:
“We were looking for athletes with strong road and track backgrounds," says Grayson.
"They didn’t have to have a trail background yet… we also wanted to make sure the athletes had similar goals so they could grow together.”
Each athlete also fit the following requirements:
TTT club consists of 15 of the nation’s top unsponsored athletes that caught the eye of TTT and made the interview cut.
TTT club members will be invited to attend TTT training camps and professional development, but won’t receive the monetary support offered to the six TTT members.
The goal of TTT is to make sub-ultra trail a viable career option for younger people and runners coming out of college programs.
"Coming out of college, there’s a lot of pressure around track and road running,” says Grayson.
TTT is here so that these talented runners do not have to choose between track and road and the trails.
An athlete gets a sponsorship opportunity...now what?
Contract literacy support is just one of the many benefits of being part of TTT.
Coming from a track background and competing on trails and road, Grayson has firsthand experience with the difficulties that come with navigating professional contracts with sponsors.
“I have an agent that advocates for my multiple disciplines," says Grayson. "I want TTT members to know they should be compensated for all that they do, explained Grayson.
Grayson said TTT also offers female trail competitors the opportunity to increase representation, and competition in the sub-ultra world.
According to the American Trail Running Association’s (ATRA) 2022 Spring Survey:
On top of the mentorship resources, TTT athletes will receive:
On The Trail Team’s website, the TTT Community tab provides a list of resources and partnerships curated for all levels of sub-ultra trail runners.
TTT Community is in place to expand the reach of TTT beyond the 6 team and 15 club athletes it supports.
You'll find trail running resources for:
They even started a Strava Club and Youtube channel to further grow the community and increase TTT visibility.
Curious about applying to TTT in 2024?
Here's what you need to know...
Excited about what TTT is doing?
You can make a tax-deductible donation! TTT accepts donations as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. You can donate on the website by clicking here.
“We also want to do some fundraisers this spring. We’ll be doing a virtual Freetrail panel similar to an NPR Power Hour with Q&As in exchange for donations,” Grayson said.
Where you’ll see TTT racing kits in 2023:
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