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Michael Benge Friday, 18 November 2011 09:13 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Ready or Not - Page 2


The Trail Runner UROC is the brain child of the accomplished trail runners Gill, 44, and his wife, Francesca Conte, 39, who own the Charlottesville Running Company shop and Bad to the Bone Endurance Sports, a production company that puts on a slew of races in the Charlottesville area. Gill and Conte know running. Conte, ruddy-faced with dark curly hair often held back by a headband and a ready warm smile, originally hails from Italy and retains a slight accent. She has amassed a long list of top ultra finishes, including a course-record win at this year's Headlands Hundred 100-miler in California. Likewise, Gill's resume is stacked, with strong finishes in races from 5K to 100 miles, including Colorado's Leadville Trail 100-miler.

Gill and Conte's audacious goal is to establish a true ultrarunning championship race, attracting the best runners in the world.

"All sports have their day, whether it's the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup, where the best of the best battle it out to determine who's the best at that sport that particular year," says Gill. "That is UROC's goal for ultrarunning, and we designed the course to be on mixed surfaces to test a wide array of abilities."

For a first-year event, UROC attained a relatively large field high-caliber athletes. Gill and Conte offered three tiers of athlete support, the top level proffering local transportation, meals and lodging expenses and an appearance fee. The event offered a cash purse of $10,000, which would be evenly split between the men and women's fields (1st: $2500, 2nd: $1000, 3rd: $750, 4th: $500, 5th: $250). Although puny by road standards, the potential payoff apparently convinced some runners to attend.

"My wife gave me a hall pass because of the prize money," said Dave Mackey, 41, of Marin, California, another pre-race favorite.

And why 100 kilometers? "First, the 100-kilometer distance is internationally recognized as the ultrarunning distance," says Conte. "In fact, it is currently being considered for an Olympic distance. Second, with our primary goal to create the Super Bowl of Ultrarunning, we wanted to encourage elite runners of varied strengths to participate. With speed versus endurance as a constant dichotomy, the 100K distance, combined with the mixed course, favors neither." (Offering options to a wide variety of tastes, UROC featured two other events the same day—the Uber Rock 50K and the Cruxy Half Marathon, which shared many of the same sections of the 100K race. In total, there were 366 starters for the three events combined.)

Says Geoff Roes, 35, of Nederland, Colorado, 2009 and 2010 Ultrarunner of the Year, and winner of California's 2010 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, whom Gill and Conte had recruited as Elite Athlete Coordinator. "Overall I think we were able to get more top runners to run UROC than most first-year races, simply by reaching out and letting runners know about the race and that we would like to have them run it."


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