Last week I attended the US Trail Running Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. With seven years of success connecting the trail running community, this conference is a partnership between Active at Altitude and the American Trail Running Association (ATRA). The conference mission is “to lead, educate, connect and empower an inclusive tribe of trail runners, race directors and industry leaders working to share best practices with the trail running community.”
This year’s theme for the conference, “Diversity and Inclusion: Trail Running for Everyone,” featured discussion panels on how to attract under-represented groups of people to our sport and make runners of all race, age, ability, and gender orientations feel welcome. Listed below are my top three takeaways from this year’s conference, which I hope will inspire you to join us at next year’s event. Details on the date and venue for the 8th annual US Trail Running Conference will be available next month.
Become a More Informed Trail Runner
For me, one of the most beneficial parts of the US Trail Running Conference was Saturday’s, “Trail Runner Day,” which included a series of discussion panels for trail runners. Experts in the field of sustainability and environmentalism spoke on the “Trail Advocacy and Stewardship” panel, which provided simple tips for runners to be more thoughtful and responsible on trails. Panels, “Nutrition and Hydration,” and “Coaches Corner -How to Focus on Healthy Trail Running,” offered advice on how to live, train and race in smarter and healthier ways.
Panels on “Diversity and Inclusion,” brought in a wide range of speakers from underrepresented groups in trail running, including Native American, people of color, youth, Latino and LGBTQ. These speakers addressed the challenges they’ve faced finding acceptance and how we as a trail running community can be more inviting and inclusive of these groups.
Additionally, a women’s panel generated discussion on the under-representation of women in trail running and panelists provided steps runners can take to change that disparity. I left Saturday feeling that I had specific goals for how to make positive changes in my own running and running community.
Attending the conference was a great way to meet trail race directors, brands and runners from around the United States, and even internationally. My interactions helped me gain appreciation for trail running events and brands in our sport outside of those I was familiar with in my circles back home.
I found myself excited to explore trail races in new places, try new products and reconnect with new friends. Some of my most memorable connections this year include organizations like Spartan Inc., Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR), FootRx Asheville, Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), Black Women’s Alliance, Latino’s Run, Sneakers4Funds, Fox River and many more.
I left the conference inspired by the amazing people I met and happy to be a part of the trail running community. Opening the conference with his keynote address, Billy Mills, Olympic gold medalist at 10,000 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, delivered a powerful speech that encouraged the audience – young and old alike — to use running as a platform to promote inclusivity and break down racial barriers.
There is no question that his, “Unity through Diversity,” message resonated with the attendees. Listening to Mill’s speech and spending time talking with him throughout the Conference was humbling. I’m reminded why I chose to be a trail runner when I meet incredible people in our community like Mills.
Friday’s movie night showcased inspiring films about trail runners Courtney Dauwalter and ATRA advisory board member Dave Mackey. Although Dauwalter was unable to attend the event in person, Mackey sat in the audience next to Mills. I enjoyed watching Mackey’s story on film and hearing him speak following the show.
Attendees at the conference had the opportunity to meet more legends in our sport including ATRA’s executive director and founder Nancy Hobbs as well as elite athletes Joseph Gray, Addie Bracy and Luis Escobar to name just a few.
If you missed the conference, you can read the articles below for detailed recaps of panels and events from each day at the 2019 US Trail Running Conference: