Race Directing Ultra Marathons as a Teenager
Putting the foot in the door as a race director and being young teaches a lot of life lessons early on... a lot of opinions, encouragement, doubt and persistence.
BY BRISTON RAINS MAY 31, 2021
It was the year 2017 and Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. I was 15 years old at the time living in Gainesville Texas, a small town north of Dallas. I remember seeing it on the news and an idea hit me. I wanted to put on a 5k at a local park and raise money for Hurricane Harvey. I emailed some city council to figure out what I needed to do then I made an entire presentation for my parents. I couldn't drive at the time so I would need to get them on board to drive me around. A few days later, after dinner, I presented the idea to them. I got a no... but I still had that desire to do something in the running community.
As I went through high school, I was absolutely obsessed with running. The trail and ultra running community is what really caught my eye and I just loved it all and wanted to be a part of it. My first running business was called "Apachi Running". I started it my Junior year of high school. It was this cool little wolf logo and it was a running apparel company. I made a few shirts and all my friends and people close to me bought them and it was getting big on social media. However, after a few months, I got burnt out and stopped production because I wasn't passionate about clothing and making clothes. I dabbled in it throughout senior year of highschool but ended it my last semester of high school when the pandemic hit in 2020.
Here's one of my first batches of shirts I made. I made about 24 of them and ended up selling all of them. A lot of my cross country teammates got a shirt and I got quite a few orders online as well.
In the summer of 2020 before I went to college I did a ton of running and trail running. My future was blurry though. A lot of people would ask what I'm doing and I would just say I planned on being a marketing manager for a sports company. In reality, I had no desire to work for someone else and I knew I would do something on my own that I was passionate about and loved. Around that time I was doing my Sunday long runs on trails with Team Dirt & Vert over at Erwin Park in McKinney Texas, just Northeast of Dallas. I remember one Sunday I was talking with one of the guys and they asked me that same question. "What do you plan on doing after college?" I've always had in the back of my head an idea to do something with coaching, race directing, just anything that has to do with running but I had never actually spoke it out loud before. So I told the guy, "I want to be either a running coach, race director or just something like that." I didn't really think much of it after. Going into college during my first semester I just figured when I graduate I would start my coaching business and maybe put on a race. That was my plan. All of those plans changed very quickly.
After a week or two of college, I was sitting in Micro Economics class and something hit me. This thought of working a desk job in corporate America just wasn't appealing to me and made me feel sick. For some reason, I started writing in my journal names of running companies. I figured I would just use those names as ideas for after college. After that microeconomics class ended I rode back to my dorm. As I get to the door of my dorm and put my key in... it all hit me. Races, coaching, apparel, content, and everything running all in one company based in Texas. I opened the door quickly and grabbed my journal and started pouring every thought that I had onto paper. I knew that was it, all these years of starting little businesses since I was a kid and this was the one. "This is the company," I told myself.
Texas Outlaw Running Company was born, but it was just some words on a paper at that point. I had really big ideas, some more radical than others, but it was going to be a lot of work. I immediately started up my talk show, made my website, started race plans, and got clients for my coaching side of it. Within a week of pouring all my time into the company, I finished every aspect and it was all a rolling production from there.
In December of 2020 I put on my first race in my hometown called the Cooke County Patriot 5k. The event sold out within the matter of weeks with a total of 50 runners. It was a 5k road race on one of my most favorite routes in town. Putting on the race itself was challenging. I learned a lot from that first race. Going into 2021 I had a plan to put on five races, majority of them being trail and ultra marathon races.
My first trail and ultra race of 2021 was the Chupacabra 50k over at Copper Breaks State Park in early May. It was a 32 mile (50 kilometers) and 10 mile (17 kilometers) trail race through some breathtaking terrain and canyons. The cool thing about Copper Breaks is that its an International Dark Sky Park so the sky is filled with stars at night. My friend from college, Asher Hamlin, was there for the whole thing to help out. I made him co-race director. He had done a lot of trail races, he's a leader at heart and he loved running just as much as I did if not more. He was the perfect guy for the job. So there we were, a few college guys traveling out into the desert, course marking, setting up and camping out every night right under the Milky Way. Our photographers, Josh and Cole from ReRoute Meida, came out the night before the race. We clicked really well with them, they were about the same age as us. By the time race day came everything was set in place. All those months of hard work and planning were coming together. The race couldn't have gone any better. Almost everyone finished, we had a few drop out and the conditions were hot and extremely windy. Regardless of weather, almost everyone said they were coming back as soon as they crossed the finish line. It was Texas Outlaw Running Company's first race in the ultra and trail running world and I couldn't be more happy with how it went.
Two weeks later I was putting on the East Texas Ultra over at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park in late May. It was a 7K, 28K, and 50K trail race in the thick pines of East Texas. This race was the biggest race I was putting on all year with a hundred runners. Putting on the Chupacabra 50k just two weeks earlier gave me confidence in putting on this race despite the large number of people. Set up and course marking went a lot smoother and working with my team flowed really well. On race day, despite it being extremely muddy and wet, everything couldn't have gone any better. Everyone had a really great time and it all couldn't help but put a smile on my face and be grateful to be able to give someone an experience like that. We even had some people run their longest distances ever, a few ran their first ultra marathons and the community there was just amazing. Dallas Dirt Runners, a huge group of Dallas trail runners, showed up to "check out the new young RD." That whole group made my day and by the end of it, they all had nothing but nice things to say.
Wrapping up my first two official trail and ultra-marathon races successfully left me with a desire to do more in the community and to give back. Social media is a story of its own. With being so young and a teenager still there's a lot of controversy in the running community online. The majority of it is very supportive and appreciative. After knocking out these first two races I think it showed that I am in this and I'm going to be in it for the long haul. I joked to a buddy that all the physical work of organizing these races doesn't feel like work at all. Physically its very tiring, but in my mind, it's just what I love to do.
After its all said it done, I want to bring some innovation to the community and race directing. My aim is to grow races and bring more people to the sport that I'm very passionate about... and that's trail running. All those feelings I get when I run, I want others to experience that too. The community of people in the sport is like nothing else.
Hope you enjoyed the read, if you followed along let me know on social!
- Briston Rains