New to the Texas trail running scene in 2021 is Texas Devil Running Company, an event management company with the goal to grow and strengthen the Texas trail running community while organizing quality ultra and trail events. What makes the Texas Devil Running Company unique is the founder Briston Rains, an eighteen-year-old business-building protege who is taking a hiatus from his studies at Southern Arkansas University to organize trail and road races. This company is Bristons’ own creation and his first race directing business.
I had the pleasure of meeting Briston at the US Trail Running Conference in Fayetteville, Arkansas this past Fall and I was inspired by his clear focus towards his business goals, friendliness and ability to network and learn from more experienced race companies present at the conference such as Pacific Coast Trail Runs, Aravaipa Running, and Pirate Perry Events. I spoke with Briston to learn more about his business, how it started, plans for the future and tips for getting more younger people involved in event directing.
[TAYTE POLLMANN] Tell me about Texas Devil Running Company.
[BRISTON RAINS] In 2021, I’m putting on seven races with my company Texas Devil Running Company. The majority of these are trail or ultra with a few road marathon and 5-kilometer races in the mix. Trail is really where my heart is though. Here’s a list of my 2021 racing schedule:
- May 8 – Chupacabra 50k (trail race) 25k & 50k – near Wichita Falls, Texas
- May 22 – East Texas Ultra (trail race) 7k, 28k, & 50k – near Tyler, Texas
- July 3 – Firecracker 5k (road race) 5k – Denton, Texas
- July 24 – Texas Diablo Marathon (trail race) half marathon & marathon – near Decatur, Texas
- Nov 27 – The Backland (trail race) Last Man Standing – Lake Texoma, Texas
- Dec 4 – Cooke County Patriot 5k (road race) 5k – Gainesville, Texas
- Dec 11 – Gainesville Marathon (road race) half marathon & marathon – Gainesville, Texas
[TAYTE] Most people your age have their thoughts on homework and here you are at eighteen already with your own business. What brought you into the business world at such an early age?
[BRISTON] I’ve always been a big dreamer. At thirteen, I tried out for America’s Got Talent and in middle school had a vision of owning a video game coding business. By high school I had started several of my own businesses, all of which failed, but I was driven to make something work. In my senior year of high school, I was voted “most likely to be your boss” because I was creating businesses left and right.
[TAYTE] Out of all the businesses you could have started, why did you choose race directing?
[BRISTON] My passion for running led me to race directing. At sixteen, I fell in love with running and this led me to create my own trail running apparel company, Apachi Running, a year later. It was successful but I quickly got burnt out. Going into college, I knew I wanted to manifest my passion for running into a business but wanted to do so through coaching or race directing. I wanted to be doing something I loved and to be my own boss.
[TAYTE] You were the only teenage race director I met at the US Trail Running Conference. How useful was this experience for you? Were you intimidated and if so, how were you able to overcome this to make connections with older and more experienced event directors?
[BRISTON] Being the only teenage race director was quite exciting. I enjoyed talking to older folks and taking their knowledge and applying it myself. The conference itself was extremely useful. Not only did I make connections with people that I would now consider friends, but I learned so much. I never thought about the environmental impact of races or pushing for minorities to participate in the sport of trail running.
I do feel like my age made it a bit difficult to connect with older race directors. I still made good connections with several older race directors, but overall found myself making more friendships and conversations with younger people at the conference. Overall, the connections I made and race directing advice I received were my biggest takeaways from the conference.
[TAYTE] When did you start your race directing business?
[BRISTON] I started Texas Devil Running in my dorm room at Southern Arkansas University in August 2020. I remember walking back to my dorm from a microeconomics class a few weeks after classes had begun. I was putting my key in the door of my dorm and suddenly a wave of ideas hit me. I immediately grabbed my journal and wrote them all down. I exchanged ideas with my roommate and Texas Devil Running was born right then and there. I knew it was going to be something special. Running is a huge part of my life and I want this business to be my mark on the running world and the legacy I leave behind in it.
[TAYTE] What was your first race and how did it go and do you have any unique stories from this experience?
[BRISTON] The first race I directed was the Cooke County Patriot 5k, which took place in Gainesville, TX, the most patriotic city in America. Almost everything went smoothly, but there was one incident with the inflatable arch at the start line. Thirty minutes before the race, a zipper on the arch burst open, so we had a half inflated arch. Fortunately, we were able to get most of it inflated before the race started.
[TAYTE] What advice do you have for anyone putting on a race for the first time?
[BRISTON] My advice for any first timers is to make sure you’re ready to put in some work. I’m passionate about running and find race directing fun, so it’s easy. If you don’t love it, it’s going to be a big chore!
[TAYTE] Who to you look up to in the race directing world?
[BRISTON] I really admire and look up to Rob Goyen from Trail Racing Over Texas. He has an amazing story and I would love to build a business as big (if not bigger!) than his. He’s a huge role model for me in the world of race directing.
[TAYTE] How is your business going and what are your goals for the future?
[BRISTON] Currently, the racing business is a bit tough because getting permits from cities and land agencies has become more difficult with COVID-19 precautions. There’s not many races going on right now, but my 5K was the only race to be held in North Texas in December 2020. I’m also happy to say that I sold out my first race. My goal for every race is to sell out because that brings more people to our wonderful sport.
Looking forward, I’d like to make my races more profitable next year. Even with selling out my first race, there was still little to no upfront profit because of the additional costs of putting on an event for the first time. Next year, I can expect more profit without these first-time costs. I also aspire to one day put on the hardest race in the United States. Currently, I’m putting on the Texas Diablo Marathon, a trail race held in the heat of July that is quite possibly the hardest marathon in Texas.
[TAYTE] What are some of the biggest challenges of having a race management business?
[BRISTON] The biggest challenge in race directing is the logistics. There’s so much effort that goes into the planning racing, way more than most would expect.
[TAYTE] What are the most and least rewarding parts of being a race director?
[BRISTON] The most rewarding part of being a race director is the impact we make on people’s lives. People train for months or even years for our races and it’s rewarding knowing that you’re helping someone achieve their goals. There isn’t really a “least rewarding” side to race directing, it’s fun, hard work and takes discipline…just like running!
[TAYTE] What are the main barriers to entry for younger people becoming race directors?
[BRISTON] Being young, it’s easy for people to look at me and assume I don’t know what I’m doing. They don’t see the hours of planning I put into each race. When I put on a race I know exactly what to do in almost any scenario and anticipate small situations and issues most people wouldn’t think of.
It would be awesome to see more trail race directors in their teens and early twenties. Race directing teaches you to be a better person and matures you. I’m not going to look back at my life with regret. I’m going to look back someday years from now and know that I chased after all the wild and ambitious dreams I had when I was young.
[TAYTE] What advice do you have for people your age thinking about starting their own racing business?
[BRISTON] Do it and see for yourself if it’s for you! I feel like race directing is made for certain types of people and if it’s for you, you’ll know it’s meant to be.