The question as it emerges in reference to when a race is being characterized “Classic” has to do with the specific elements that it should have in order to reach this advanced level of perception for the people who are involved with trail running. Apart from the duration of a race in time are there any other aspects that it should cover? And how much the term “classic” for a race affects consciously the athletes?
It is doubtless that when a race takes place steadily through the years, that is to have long historical time duration, possesses the meaning of “Classic”. Its survival through the years proves that the athletes’ community respects some of its elements as well as they appreciate the passion and zest that the organizers put on it.
The level of competition plus the participation of big athletes every year are also important characteristics of the big “Classic” Races. If this is combined with the stability of the route - also very important element - it gives a lot of prestige in the race records or in a record which becomes point of reference. For instance the Olympus Marathon – a Classic Race – is a very competitive race, keeping a steady route every year with top Greek and foreign athletes to compete for the first place. Moreover, a lot of times happens that the record of an athlete in this race is being used to characterize his/her sport level. Even a race record which hasn’t been bitten for years contributes to the fame of a particular race. For example the amazing Matt Carpenter's record at the famous and classic Pikes Peak mountain marathon in the US, who has disappointed for decades all of its aspiring suitors.
In Trail Running, the route and the stability of the race through the time has to do more with the natural landscape, the grade of difficulty and the experience the athlete will gain while running in such a race. A very good example of this, are the races which take place in the superb natural landscape of the Rodopi Mountains. For Ultra Distance Road Races, like Spartathlon, the route has more to do with the historical connection of the Race with the legendary route of Phidipides.
Another major characteristic that gives to a race the meaning of “Classic” is the community of volunteers who support the race for many years and give their trademark of passion and devotion to the race; the participating athletes recognize them already. In Spartathlon, there are certain families who manage the aid stations for decades while in VFUT and Rodopi Advendurun there are people for many years now who try to help and fulfill in the best organized and cooperative way the experience of the athletes.
The passion, the strong wit, the personality and the devotion of the Technical Manager of the race are also major characteristics of “Classic” races. For example, the famous Barkley doesn’t have a crowd of athletes, big sponsors and there are few athletes who try it and manage to finish it but Gary Cantrell, but the Technical Manager of the race, raises Berkley in the sphere of “Classic” by himself, by introducing incredible difficult rules with the “craziness” that distinguishes him.
Does the number of participants play a role as to describe a race “Classic”? Maybe it does, but less than the other factors. The Hardrock 100 miler accepts – in comparison with its fame – a small number of applications every year, thus it is a Legendary race. The same of course applies to UTMB of the thousand participations.
It is also very interesting to notice the transformation of Classic races through the years. There are other Races that are stuck to their routes, they don’t raise the number of participants, they don’t use the new technologies and marketing techniques whereas there are other races which keep up with all the new developments of the sport, the new technologies and communication strategies of the race. In both of these categories we can find Races that keep the sense of “Classic” and survive in the years. Berkley or even Hardrock belong to the first category where UTMB belongs to the second one.
Trail Running as well as Ultra Trail have a unique sport characteristic. Regardless of the myth, fame and history that a race has created, all of us can stand at some point, in the start of a Classic race and live the experience of a Historical route. We can run in the steps of great historical athletes of the sport, we can take all the care from volunteers who have left their footprints at their spots, we can receive a medal from a Technical Manager who has raised the race in the level of big and Classic with his inspiration. That’s not at all little…
English Version: Iris Kouveli
Photo©: Chris Boukoros-Free Life Productions, Babis Giritziotis–Goexperience, snewsnet.com
The original article in Greek here