Is Trail Running Becoming Too Commercialized?

I began trail running in 2010 which seems to be around the time that most runners discovered this unusual sport. For me, I began running trails because one of my 60 year old coworkers at the time was a trail runner and he told me I hadn’t run a race until I ran a trail race. And that you didn’t run a trail race until you ran an ultra marathon.

At 20 years old, I was inexperienced in most race distances – the longest race I had ever completed was a 7 miler, but I went out and bought a pair of trail shoes and signed up for a 50 KM, because I wanted to run a trail race and that seemed like a logical place to start for me.


I was immediately struck with the COMMUNITY that surrounds trail running as I began training. I did some shorter trail races with the 5 Peaks Racing Series and started the races sipping bold coffee and finished in sitting on grass, watching the winners receive their prizes. I felt like I had found a home.

The actual race was a gruelling one for me, but because trail races are smaller than road races, it was an intimate and inspiring experience. I fell in love with the rustic charm of trail racing and I have carried it with me. The local trails became my regular haunts and I even am bold enough to claim they are named after me.


As a social person, running trails is a time where I can be alone to think, to work on myself and to just play.

That being said, in my short time in the sport, I have watched it explode. The amount of trail 100 milers across the country has grown exponentially because people not only want to grind out 100 miles over wretched conditions, but are willing to pay thousands to do it.

Small races that used to attract only the craziest in the world now have to resort to lotteries and often need to wait years to be chosen. More companies are being attracted to the sport and more money is being poured into the sport.

And you know what? I am glad. For me, popularity is not going to taint this sport. At the core of trail running is a sport where a bunch of down to earth, motivated people just want to go out and race together in the woods. Despite more and more people joining us on the trails to challenges their bodies and hearts, it will still only attract driven, simple people. The rest will be weeded out over the long up and down hills of the race courses because the core of trail running is a pure love for being outdoors and of running.


As more money and companies flock to the sport, it gives trail athletes a chance to be supported in a sport they love which is how it should be. I even have been positively affected, being able to race for 5 Peaks and represent SKECHERS trail shoe line. Goodness knows that could never have happened without the sport growing in popularity.

I want more people to know about trail running. I want people to go out and get lost in the trails for a morning, leaping over logs, exploring trails and leaving the watch behind. Sunday mornings are my long run where I leave the numbers behind and just go run trails for a couple hours. So much of my training revolves around intervals and splits. Trail running gives my mind a break and I think it is something that people desperately need.

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So if you aren’t a trail runner and it sounds like something you want to do, are you busy Sunday morning? Because you will find me on the trails training for my next trail race that is bigger than last year. And THAT is awesome.

Do you think trail running has become too commercialized? Why or why not? 


  1. Terry Edwards says:

    When a sign says Cycling and Hiking only, what does that really mean? Do that mean no running? If it doesn’t, then who has the right of way. I’ve been on a couple trails only to get yelled at by cyclist telling me to move to the side. I dont want to stop running to move to the side, I think they should just go around. What is the etiquette on that?

    • Cycling and hiking only includes running as well. Unfortunately, If you are running at the hydrocut, I do believe it is protocol to move to the side to let cyclists go by because they are often moving faster that you are and the trails are maintained by the Waterloo Cycling Club. On the trails at the hydrocut, cyclists have right of way. I often hop to the side to let them go by and they are always very courteous and grateful.

  2. Such a juicy topic! Great post Jess. As someone experienced with running but not trails (well, not yet anyway – I will be soon with your expert guidance!) I think it’s a good thing that it’s getting more popular and attracting more companies like you said. I’m not a pro athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but I know it’s not easy for those that are to fund all of their race expenses and I think having sponsors popping up in the sport is a great thing.

    • Precisely! I think it is so much fun that there are more people being attracted to the sport. It is a FUN and relaxing sport that everyone can benefit from. Why would we try and limit that?

  3. Hmmmmm I agree with you. I think the more popular a sport becomes the better is for the sport. The community goes, hopefully more events will be offered, and more sponsirs will help boost the overall experience. I want to do some trail racing, but this summer is just too jam packed with triathlons – maybe next summer!

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