An Insider's Look at The Trail Team with Runner Grayson Murphy

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.

Andy Wacker founded The Trail Team with professional runners Grayson Murphy, Allie Mac, and Adam Peterman.

Let's make trail running 'notoriously glamorous'

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:

  • Fanfare
  • Spectatorship, and...
  • Athlete support

When compared to their United States counterpart, European trail racing is notoriously glamorous.

  • Athletes are widely recognized and can compete and live as full-time, professional trail-running athletes. 
  • American trail running, particularly sub-ultra events (races that are 26.2 miles or less), lack the recognition that they deserve. 

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.

Meet The Trail Team mentors...

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:

  • A stipend
  • Professional development, and...
  • Media exposure

But Wacker didn’t stop there. He also implemented the:

  • TTT club and TTT community...
  • Hoping to leverage partnerships and resources for trail runners of all levels and abilities. 

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 Wacker, athlete mentor and founder of The Trail Team
  • With a background in college cross country at the University of Colorado, Andy is a four-time trail national champion. 
  • He has represented Team USA 17 times, placing 2nd in 2015 and 3rd in 2014 in the Mountain Running Long Distance World Championships. 
Grayson Murphy, The Trail Team athlete mentor
  • Grayson is the 2019 Mountain Running World Champion and a 2-time US Mountain running champion. 
  • In 2022, she won the Nations Cup in Susa, Italy. 
  • On the track she is a 5-time All-American at the University of Utah and most recently finished 6th at the 2021 Olympic Trials in the 3000m Steeplechase. 
Allie Mac, The Trail Team athlete mentor
  • Allie Mac is the Mount Marathon record holder. 
  • In 2022, she won two stages in the Golden Trail World Series final, won the Vertical Mountain Running World Championship and earned a bronze medal in the Classic Distance in the span of eight days. 
  • At University of Colorado, Allie earned All-American honors in Cross country. 
Adam Peterman, The Trail Team athlete mentor
  • Adam is the 2022 Long Course Trail World Champion. 
  • He won Western States 100 in his debut 100-mile ultra. 
  • Adam is a two-time trail national champion in the marathon. 
  • At the University of Colorado, he was a member of the 2014 cross country team that won the NCAA title.
The Trail Team opens six spots for athlete mentorship each year.

Meet The Trail Team 2023 athletes...

“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: 

TTT member Lauren Gregory (@laurengregory_pt) breaking the tape by Joe Vigil.

The Trail Team selection process: Here's what you need to know

With only six available slots, TTT had a rigorous selection process complete with:

  • An application form
  • Interviews
  • Selection committee

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:

  • 20-30 years old
  • Living and training in the United States
  • Desire to focus on sub-ultra trail
  • Strong running resume 
Above: TTT club member Colin (@colinnwong) by Tony Dipasquale.

TTT Club gives top unsponsored athletes a chance

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. 

  • Grayson is proof a well-rounded athlete is an asset to the sport.
  • She was a collegiate track athlete who went on to achieve world champ status as a trail runner. 
  • In fact, two TTT athletes (Sam Hendry and Alex Lawson) are multi-sport athletes that also ski competitively. 
TTT athlete Alex Lawson (@alexelaws) pushing into the finish at the USATF championships by Joe Vigil.

TTT helps athletes navigate contracts, nutrition & more

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:

  • There’s a large discrepancy between male and female participants.  
  • In 2022, 54% of trail runners self-reported as male, and 44% as female. 

On top of the mentorship resources, TTT athletes will receive:

  • Auxiliary support from registered dietitian Kylee Van Horn with Flynutrition
  • Future TTT benefits will include access to a sports psychologist, athlete agents, and physiotherapist
  • Note: Wacker plans on announcing these new partners soon, so keep an ear out for these big developments! 
Interested in sub-ultra trail running? Check out TTT trail running resources.

Check out TTT community resources

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:

  • Podcasts
  • Websites
  • Endurance coaches
  • Strength coaches
  • Nutrition coaches
  • Race calendar
  • Training tips
  • Master's resources

They even started a Strava Club and Youtube channel to further grow the community and increase TTT visibility. 

TTT club member Anna (@_annabunnie_) by Tony Dipasquale

The future of The Trail Team

Curious about applying to TTT in 2024?

Here's what you need to know...

  • Grayson urges young runners to keep building strong running resumes! 
  • You can apply for The Trail Team next year after the current members graduate from the mentorship program.
  • Current TTT members will move into alumni and mentorship roles in 2024 as a way to keep growing the circle of support. 
  • The age requirements for applicants will remain the same in 2024, but there’s a chance that TTT will expand beyond purely sub-ultra trail running. 

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:

Will you be at any of these races? Do you think TTT can change the face of sub-ultra trail running in the United States?

 Leave us a comment!

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Abigail Lock
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Endurance athlete with a proclivity for mountain running and high altitude desert dwelling. NASM Certified Sports Nutriti...

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