'Unsanctioned Racing' Project

No permits. No race fees. Just a few friends and a sick time outdoors running, cycling or adventure racing in the city or further afield outdoors. That’s the premise of Pearl Izumi’s new project, dubbed “Unsanctioned Racing.” Check out the video below for a full rundown, or head to the source on PI’s Facebook page. You can set up an “event” with friends and get the word out through this social page. There is a function to make a map of your course, and PI is doling out swag to the best or most-attended “unsanctioned races” it sees. Overall, this is a concept I love, and anyone who attended my off-grid “6 Challenges of the Gear Junkie” event last summer can attest to the good times that can be had during an unofficial, unsanctioned event. Props to PI for having the corporate cojones to surpass legal and go for it here. A cool premise that I hope catches on around the country with people who don’t want to worry about officiating something before they get outside with friends to compete and play. —Stephen Regenold

Posted by Pierre Ostor - 11/02/2011 06:12 PM

I got better, no permit, no fee, no racing, just go out there and have fun.

Posted by Jason Elsenraat - 11/02/2011 07:26 PM

I’m all about non-sanctioned events and going out and having a good time with some buddies. It sounds like fun, but I know the U.S. Forest Service requires a permit if you have 75 or more people attending your “non-event”. I know most of these “non-races” don’t get 75 racers, but if you do, and the event is being held in Forest Service land then I would hate for a group of people out having fun to ruin it for everyone. I’m sure Pearl Izumi is mostly interested in trail running events, which in most cases would be fine. But if people start putting on Orienteering non-events or adventure non-races, and end up ruining it for the rest of us I won’t be very happy! I guess that is just the non-race director side of me coming out.

I know I sound like the old man in the group, but I don’t think it sounds very responsible, on Pearl Izumi’s part, to be promoting non-sanctioned, non-permitted events. You at least need to run it by the land owners (state park, forest service, NPS, etc.), and once you do that, I’m sure they will want you to fill out a special use permit. In most cases you can do that and still not have an entry fee or sanctioning, but they will want you to have insurance. I would hate for a bunch of people to go out and do a non-permitted O-meet, and little did they know it was in the middle of a youth turkey hunt or something along those lines. Not only did these turkey hunters most likely drive from out of town (paid for gas and lodging – as well as an out of state hunting permit), but then they are being surrounded by people in the woods running around and no one at the park even knew anything about it. Boom, that ruins it for everyone.

I’m just sayin’. I’ve never been the most responsible one in the group, but this is just common sense. I know I won’t be putting on any non-events, my events will be permitted and insured, and in my opinion, you’re crazy to put on any event without insurance (and a permit).

Posted by andy magness - 11/02/2011 08:00 PM

one of the issues is that it seems like there is a contradiction here – a non event in my book is the kind of adventure i plan with five buddies and go do. PI is in a sense trying to get these events to be ‘well attended’, which kind of makes them non non events. Sure an informal cyclocross race with 15-20 folks may be no big deal (but we’re finding out in Grand Forks where these happen regularly that even these have an impact that may not be welcomed by the park district or land owners) – but a non-event with 50+ people looks a whole lot like an event in my book. I agree with pierre that we don’t need events to have fun. in fact all of my best and most intense adventures have had nothing to do with races…. adventure racing – even hard core stuff – pales in comparison to a real ambitious expedtion. But no way in hell would i encourage my ‘non-event’ adventures to be well attended either. Events and non-events are two different things with two different sets of ‘rules’ – i don’t think it makes sense to try and do one thing and call it something else, which is what PI seems to be doing. a large group of people doing something (an O-meet, etc) takes at least some degree of organization. if there is a common set of rules and expectations – someone had to put that together and has to oversee it to make it work. Even with grassroots events like one of the original un-races, the AK wilderness classic – if they are good then they will get popular. as they grow, logistics become more challenging and its hard to call them un-races anymore.

Posted by Tman - 11/03/2011 10:51 AM

Everybody NEEDS to avoid this totally.

I you organize one of these unofficial events
and someone gets hurt are they then able
to sue you for organizing the event? After all
there is a record of you organizing the event
on some website.

I know that people have to agree to a waiver,
but is that really going to cover your ass.
What if people hear about it, and show up
without signing up at the website?

All of a sudden, there is some red tape

Posted by Thad Johnson - 11/03/2011 12:09 PM

The waiver I’m sure is releasing pearl izumi, not the organizer, of whatever liability they may have. It’s almost funny that people are so up in arms about what’s pretty obviously a marketing campaign rather than a “system to setup and facilitate races”. C’mon. PI’s done this angle in the past with all of their marketing – they wanna be known as the bad boys of cycling/running/etc.

Posted by Paul Angell - 11/03/2011 02:02 PM

Sounds to me like PI is looking for a great way to market directly to athletes without the hassle/cost of dealing with event promoters :-)

Posted by Ben J - 11/05/2011 12:04 AM

I was invited from a friend to do an alley cat a couple of years ago. One of the most fun things I had done on a bike in a long time. After some thinking I decided it was so much fun I would host something like it in my community. I scoped out a general course and asked a friend if he wanted to be a co host for our informal race. We put the word out to some friends and had 14 or so racer/riders at Supburbocross I. Several said it was the most fun they had all year on their bike. We race in the fall and spring and just had our 5th race. No waivers. Just an announcement at the beginning saying you are on your own and be careful. Have fun, be safe, and if you like it make up your own race and host something. We are hoping to have 2 offshoots in the next 6 months.

Organic fun. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In a race hosting/developing kind of way. It will bring you and others joy. We need more joy!

Posted by Scott R - 11/05/2011 11:35 AM

Different events demand different considerations! Private land affords you many more options, but opens you up to a lot more liability.

Public land always involves more issues, because not only is it open to “you” for “your” non-event, but it’s open to everyone else at the same time. You must always consider public land as SHARED land. Never go in expecting to have an area to yourself. It’s not yours to claim. Getting there first or having the bigger crowd means nothing. Also, it’s not just about other users affected that day, but for many days and years to come. Are your non-event attendees littering on public land? It really bothers me to see CLIFbar wrappers on trails! Is your OR course going off-trail? Are your non-attendees going to be tearing up pristine land? Maybe it seemed fine when YOU walked alone across that meadow, but 50 people trampling the same ground in a short time period can have devastating impacts that last for years, even decades. ANY event on Public land MUST embrace and enforce Leave No Trace principles.

Bottom line, there’s a GOOD reason why events are organized, especially on public land. If there is ever a conflict between you and your buddies having a good time and either the quality of the experience of more responsible / lower impact users OR the sustainability of a piece of land, you LOSE every time in my book – by a significant margin. The best thing you can do for your non-event (and it is low cost as well as pretty easy to do) is to develop and preach a code of ethics. A 10-minute ethics briefing before every non-event goes a long way.

Every outdoor activity that has staying power is backed by a campaign of low impact, responsible usage, sharing with the public, and overall ethical bahviour. For examples and inspiration, check out groups such as the Access Fund, Leave No Trace, Sierra Club, Audubon Society, etc.

Posted by margaret - 01/31/2012 01:23 PM

We organize a free annual informal event, a road event (not a wilderness course) on public bike paths. One year some guy we invited told us he refused to come because it was unsanctioned. Our intent was simply to get a bunch of people together and invite others to join on the same course starting at the same time. In my opinion it’s not any different than a group training runs we do three times a week and sanctioned or unsanctioned you run the risk of irresponsible participant behavior. The “you’re unsactioned, I’m not coming” comment really bothered me and it’s what attracted me to this site. Though a trail course would be a different story. As our informal event has grown, we’ve wanted to offer our participants more. I guess at some point we’ll have to call it a “race”. We now have community sponsored prizes, very basic aid stations, insurance and city and law enforcement clearance, two medical people, sweep and marshals (friends in reflective vests), a timing service (volunteer guy with a stopwatch), and post-event BBQ, even though it remains free. Right now it’s somewhere between informal group fun and a “race event”. That was just the natural progression but while it’s been a bit of a struggle to keep it free, the spirit’s still there simply because it is (and we are) low key… Sanctioned or not.

Posted by Aaron - 06/01/2012 11:39 AM

I completely agree with Margeret above. If you are going to put on of these non sanctioned events on you should also be doing the event. Before the race, you should state, this is not a race, you are on your own just doing this with a bunch of others on there own. If you have problems or questions or don’t know the course, then you don’t do it.
People are acting like it is an “event” . If this is what you want it to be then you can deal with the problems. I will be having a bunch of friends going over the same course I made up. That is all.

Posted by Dzzznuts - 07/16/2012 08:25 AM

Wow!! This is such a great idea. I have been doing this for years but only on a bike. Mad props to PI. This is something that should have been done long ago. It is renegade running at it’s best. No high fees, no timing, just free running. For all you D-Bag runners who are not down, don’t participate. Why does eveything have to be so controlled and so restrictive. Have fun with it. That is what it’s all about. Run free, run for your life!!!!

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