Please welcome our thirty second American Trail Running Association (ATRA) Trail Ambassador presented by CamelBak, and the eighth in 2019. Mountain Home, Arkansas based Paul Gigliotti is a trail race director, screen-printing business owner, trail runner, volunteer, and trail steward.
US Trail Running Conference director Terry Chiplin nominated Paul and wrote about him, “I first met Paul Gigliotti through the US Trail Running Conference. Paul has been a popular panel member at Conference in recent years, and has inspired many race directors and trail runners with his creative ideas, problem solving, energy, enthusiasm, and quirky sense of humor. It is a huge pleasure to recommend him as an ATRA Trail Ambassador!”
Meet Paul Gigliotti:
Forty-one-year-old Paul Gigliotti was born and raised in metro Detroit, but has lived in Mountain Home, Arkansas for the past 13 years. Father of two girls – Makenna and Sophia – Gigliotti lives with his partner Misty Krug, herself an avid trail runner.
Gigliotti was a self-confessed late bloomer when it comes to running. “I didn’t start running until I was 32 years old,” said Gigliotti. “Once I got into running, I submerged myself into our local running community and was one day invited to join the group on a trail run. I didn’t quite understand what it meant at the time, but I instantly felt like a kid frolicking through the woods running with a smile from ear to ear. It was love at first step!
“Having been used to running on the road, I took those first few trail runs serious, bounding down the trail and running hard,” continued Gigliotti. “It wasn’t until I went on my first trail run with my now great friend Jake that I learned that I could slow it down and take it all in. In fact, it was that run with Jake that I learned that hiking uphill is perfectly acceptable! The notion of slowing down to get the most out of the day on the trail, while I didn’t realize it then, is one of the best things about trail running. Slow down, conserve, think about what you’re doing, enjoy the day and bomb the downhills!”
His love of trail running transferred to trail racing. “I love running trail races! The only thing better than hanging out with trail runners when putting on an event, is participating with them,” said Gigliotti. “Trails are where it’s at! The adventure of the trail is such that the same trail can give you varying experiences time and time again. I have some favorite local trails that we train on which offer the full experience: single track, dirt roads, groomers, technical and knobby, flat, elevation changing madness…I love the variance and racing on trails is always a blast!
“I’ve ranged from the 10K to a 50K and managed to put in a 50-miler pacing a friend on her 100 mile endeavor,” continued Gigliotti. “Of course, as trail races go, we make use of what we have, I’m particularly fond of a 21 mile race that’s pretty burly! I’m torn between the 50K and 25k as a favorite race distance. The 25K you can run hard, but the 50K is where the endurance really starts in. You can’t just grunt out a successful 50K; there’s the element of strategy, which is of course its own factor. It makes the race experience a complete mind and body challenge.”
Gigliotti’s event management business, Pirate Perry Events, has an interesting history. “The name ‘Pirate Perry Events,’ is the brainchild of my then 5-year old daughter,” explained Gigliotti. “I had taken over the helm of a local marathon and half marathon race and quickly grew the numbers and had great success. After year two I was approached by the David’s Trail Foundation who wanted to put on a race beyond what they had done on the local level in the past. Well, it became apparent if I was going to get into this race management stuff, I had to be legit and start a race management entity. In the spirit of ‘kids say the darnedest things,’ I asked my girls (then 5 and 7) for help coming up with a name. Here’s how this went down:
- Me: Girls, Dad is starting a running company, and I need a name for it. Take your time, give it a few days, a week, whatever. I’m looking for something cool and different; let’s see what you come up with. (Over a two-week period they’d sling some rather mundane and cliché ideas my way. There was something about a cheetah and some other not-very-original ideas. Until one day I was sitting at the computer and little Sophia came tearing ass around the corner.)
- Kid: Dad, I have a name for your races!
- Me: (Turing and giving her my full attention) Sweet, let’s hear it.
- Kid: (With ear to ear smile and arms out in excitement)….PIRATE!
– There was a pause –
- Me: “Pirate” huh? That’s it? Just…Pirate?
– brief pause –
- Kid: No Daddy….um…Pirate….Pirate…PP..PPAPPAPPEPI…PIRATE PERRY!
- Me: I like it! Let’s roll with that!
And there it was. It’s a fun name, a little goofy, it sticks out, but not too weird. We came up with what I think is a cool logo and it’s been a blast ever since!”
Although his girls haven’t followed in their father’s footsteps and become runners themselves, they’ve taken a fairly active role in race management. “My older daughter Makenna is my co-director for Jog With Your Dog, a 5K that utilizes the trail at our local dog-park,” said Gigliotti. “The goal of the race of course, ‘to raise money for the animals.’”
In the beginning, Pirate Perry Events was simply legitimizing a hobby for Gigliotti, but now race directing is his livelihood and he’s embraced all aspects of it. His work is never boring. Gigliotti said, “A ‘day at the office,’ may be creating routes or marking a course, working with different organizations, nerding-out doing my websites, or any other obscure task I hadn’t thought of when they used to ask what I wanted to do when I grow up.
“Trail running and race directing make the perfect storm of being a kid while looking like an adult,” continued Gigliotti. “And that’s basically what I try to bring to my events: I have made some of the best friends and memories doing both. We (my kids, my girlfriend, my buddies) have laughed, cussed and felt so proud putting on events enjoying the outdoors and the people. Of course, the goal is to be profitable, but we help people build their own memories of good times all the while helping some great charities along the way!”
Protecting the environment is a big focus for Pirate Perry Events, “We’re always looking for new and more ways to go Green,” said Gigliotti. “I’ve been making trips to the recycling center before it was cool, and I’m a stickler for recycling at our events – even if it’s the basics of collecting, paper, plastics and beer cans. Maybe we’re not the absolute model of perfection when it comes to making sustainability efforts, but we have taken, and continue to take, steps in the right direction, and often in some fun and creative ways.”
Here’s what Pirate Perry Events does to reduce their environmental impact at races:
- BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag to packet pickup. We don’t provide plastic bags for packet pickup goodies.
- Bring your own everything! – Post race meals, you’ll need your own plate, cups, and utensils. Again, not every race, but it’s a thing! We no longer provide disposable items, and again, runners are cool with it.
- Cupless aid stations – While not every race is cupless, we’ve taken the leap, runners don’t mind at all, and we’re taking steps to push this further.
- Less packet pickup goodies – Let’s be honest, most of what we see as giveaways and advertisements at any given packet pickup get tossed. We try to keep this to a minimum.
- Paperless registrations – We’ve taken registration to the 21st century! You won’t find links to download paper registration forms on PPE sites and on-site registration is done from a laptop or tablet.
- Recycle bins & baskets everywhere – Pitch in!
- Recycle race medals – last year’s left over finisher medals become this year’s age division medals.
- Shoe recycling drives – meet our friends at www.EcoSneakers.com
- The $5/5K where the intentions are to purge swag from past events, use left-over medals, bibs and whatever else can be put to use.
Giving back is also important to Gigliotti. “At Pirate Perry, we volunteer our time and experiences to help other events get set up,” Gigliotti said. “From an administrative consultative side, which is rewarding, we help the newbies brainstorm through the mountain of details associated with putting on an event. Also a favorite activity is attending races where we’re happy to pitch in with packet pickup, course marking or just shooting the breeze and having the RD bounce ideas off of us.
“Volunteering provides a great opportunity to learn from fellow race directors and to have conversation from the ‘business’ side,” added Gigliotti. “Networking, meeting new friends, catching up with old ones and so on…that’s some of the best stuff that comes out of attending other races. It’s the sharing of ideas, often through casual conversation, where lightbulbs go off and all the problems of the world are solved.”
That volunteerism extends to helping out to maintain trails. “Anytime I’m on the trail, there’s a good chance I’m coming back with more than I left with,” said Gigliotti. “I think we all owe it to our trail loving community to pick up litter and be proactive. More officially, my friend and often co-director Jake and I have cultivated a great relationship with the North Central Arkansas Master Naturalists. The NCAMN are ‘volunteer educators, citizen scientists and stewards of the environment striving to protect and preserve Arkansas’ natural beauty,’ who spearhead and staff an abundance of trail clean-up projects. Over the years, we’ve raised thousands of dollars for the NCAMN to provide equipment to help them through their endeavors. Pirate Perry is proud to name NCAMN as the benefactor to the Buffalo National River Trail Runs & Biathlon as well as the Big Bluff Challenge 5K & 10K trail run.”
When asked what Gigliotti has learned from trail running, he turned the tables. “What haven’t I learned from trail running?” he said. “Life moves fast, so think about what’s happening in front of you. Think about where you’re headed and be strategic about how you’re going to make it to the end! Trail running – particularly ultra distances – requires a full mind-body acknowledgement. The physical and mental elements must be in sync. For me, it’s planning for all the little things. What do I need to have prepared, how do I execute, and how can I make it even better for the future!”
His advice for someone considering getting into trail running or racing is, “Don’t let the terrain get into your head! So often I hear folks who are nervous about getting hurt out on the trail. If you’re smart, pay attention to your surroundings, and watch your footing, you’ve got it covered! Put one foot in front of the other, enjoy the greener side of running, take in the fresh air, and have a cool time in the woods!”