Through the Trail Runner Blog Symposium, this question is posed, "Is the Introduction of bigger prize purses at trail races a positive or negative thing overall?"
I will never see a purse in a trail or road event so these thoughts come from someone who runs for the pure love of it. In The Moment Running was intentionally created after a trail run with the premise that trail running required you to be In The Moment while running and not drifting off half asleep like you can on a road. Don't get me wrong, I run the roads too but trail running is something special and requires you to be one with the path you take, the trail less traveled if you will. Trail running is born out of nature and the challenge called upon by the trail - rocks, roots, streams, hills, mud, logs - all that can and will make the best of runners stumble. My last blog entry Lost Horizon and a referenced entry from one of my other blogs show the respect yet joy and love I have for trail running.
Now, to the question at hand. There are probably less than 100 runners in the country that can compete for wins on trails, especially at the ultra level, which would be the trail races that could possibly acquire the sponsorships needed for bigger prize purses. Although I will never win a prize purse, small or large, I am not opposed to seeing larger prize purses for the top runners. Like I said, comparatively speaking, there are not that many guys and gals who would enter a trail race solely for the large prize purse. More my fear is that trail races become what the JFK 50 has become, an event for elite runners that keeps the grassroots folks out of the event ( I know, not entirely true but is ultimately heading in that direction and I hate to knock it because it is in my hometown). Most trail races allow only a certain number of runners on the trail so it is understood that these races will be capped. Entry should be, come one, come all and if the purse just happens to be a big one, then the elite runners need to register early just like everyone else. Or, maybe the race sets aside a certain number of elite entries of qualified runners. Of course, the 10K trail championships and the like are different. These races are for champions and elite runners and the stage and purse is theirs for the taking.
Also, what I will hate to see is that these events grow into mega-events like the Competitor events on the roads. Although I have run a few of them, I despise the commercialization of them and try to avoid them as much as possible. There are certainly positives in these events to the local communities, charities, and promoting running in general. But, there is no question about it; these guys are out to make money and appear to put that above all else. I hope that if trail running prize purses do become larger, that the sponsors, race directors, and trail running community all make a concerted effort to keep the sport pure because, in essence, that is what trail running is all about - purity.