2018 and 2019 Changes

Our 2018 season has been finalized and you may find some surprises. Most notably some races are conspicuously missing from our calendar, namely Tushars Ultra, Grand Canyon Half Marathon & Everglades Half Marathon.

After an incredible 2016 season we noticed attendance at some of our events shrunk for the first time ever. The thing with events is there is a high fixed cost of doing business. Many of our costs we incur whether we have 200 runners or 2000 runners. For example at an Ultra, it is the same amount of work to mark the course, and setup aid stations regardless of the race attendance. For a road race, we have to pay to close down the roads regardless of how many people sign up. This means that when attendance is down, it can be difficult for the race break even and can jeopardize our ability to function going forward.

With Tushars, it is a race we love and want to see it continue. The challenge is that the forest service has limited us to 300 participants, total. This has caused to lose close to $30,000 each year. The cost to produce the race is significant with remote aid stations, and extremely rugged terrain. That means we went out and worked our asses off for days only to lose money as a company. Obviously this isn’t sustainable. The fix is one of 2 things:

  1. Increase the overall cap, to help us better cover our costs.
  2. Make the race a 100k only, which would increase revenue at the event and would help us focus our attention and could reduce some costs.

We like offering the marathon and half, if for no other reason than they allow flexibility for some people who underestimate how challenging this course is.

We have been working with the forest service on #1 but have not been able to find resolution yet. To be fair to them, they are overworked. We value our relationships with the forest service employees and wish they had more resources to do their job. So as anxious as we are for resolution, I am not upset at them for not being able to address this issue more timely.

So we fully expect to back in 2019 with our Tushars event. What it will look like is uncertain, but we expect to make an announcement before Summer 2018.  

Everglades is similar in some ways. We chose to cancel the 2017 race because our course was flooded, and we were worried that moving the race would have diminished the experience for everyone. While super disappointing to some people, I still think it was the best decision.

Going forward though, we feel like there is not enough interest in the race for it to be an annual event. Interest in the race waned significantly after the first year, and despite our best marketing efforts, registration dropped more than 30% from 2016 to 2017. The permitting agency (NPS) limited the number of participants for this race, and because of this we had to keep our race fees unusually high which probably exacerbated the problem. So 2018 isn’t going to happen, but it may be back. I’ll explain below.

First let’s talk about the Grand Canyon Half Marathon. One would think that because the Grand Canyon is this incredible destination it would be a sell out every year. This has not proven to be true. Could it be that because our race on the south rim provides no canyon views that runners are not interested? Well, we had a race on the north rim that was right on the rim of the canyon, and still registration was tepid.

Furthermore, we decided to move the Grand Canyon race just a week apart from the Lake Powell half marathon. The thinking was there is so much to do in these areas, we thought runners would love to do two races on back to back weekends with a week to enjoy all the grand circle has to offer. What ended up happening is that registrations at both the Lake Powell and Grand Canyon race shrunk in 2017, making two races that don’t break even rather than a single one that is sustainable.

While I love going to the Grand Canyon, we feel like there may not be sufficient demand to hold an annual race there, especially in October.

So where do we go from here?

We love all our races, including some you haven’t seen in a while like the Capitol Reef Ultra. What we are starting to think is that some of these races may not be able to happen every year. So here is the tentative plan: We are going to hold off on the Grand Canyon Half Marathon in 2018 but plan to bring it back for the Grand Canyon Centennial in 2019, and depending on what happens it may be an every other year event.

For those still wanting to run in Arizona in October, we have you covered with our Lake Powell Half Marathon on Oct 20 in Page. For the few people who have run the entire series, we constantly hear that Lake Powell is the best course we have. The variety of surface to the jaw dropping scenery, it should be near the top of everyone’s race bucket list.

That brings us back to the Everglades. If we see that an every other year system works out, we’ll likely figure out a way to bring back the Everglades half marathon in the future. We can see an every other year or every three years system working for many of the races we have. Some events like the Zion Half Marathon, Yosemite Half Marathon, Antelope Canyon Ultra would happen every year while others would rotate. Some events like the Capitol Reef Ultra might only happen once every five years.

We would issue the calendar 2-3 years in advance so you could plan for which races you wanted to attend.

We would love to hear some feedback on this idea. We are not aware of any other events that happen on a rotating basis as every event I know about happens annually. Would this change make any difference to you? Let us know.

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Salem Stanley

Salem Stanley is the founder and CEO of Vacation Races. He loves the personal growth that comes from athletics and physical challenges. He also is in love with National Parks. He received a BA in Business from Southern Virginia University where he was an All-American track athlete. He recently graduated with an MBA from BYU.

  • Keith Walker says:

    Certainly understand that tough business decisions had to be made. I missed the Everglades Half, however, I’m not a huge fan of out and back courses. Perhaps the December date was too close after Thanksgiving and close enough to Christmas that this hurt interest.

    As for the Grand Canyon, rotation (Lake Powell & Grand Canyon) I would give this a chance if it could happen at the North Rim. Although I’ve never heard of races rotating, however, I’ve heard of course rotations (reversals) at some ultra marathons, and it seemed to be pretty popular. Slightly off topic, a pretty popular air show in England and France rotate the host country.

    I would sunset Everglades and rotate the Arizona races. Florida does have some pretty great locations at State parks to host an ultra marathon that are breathtaking and near major cities.

    Ryan, I’ll send you my contact information if you want to talk.

  • Kristie says:

    I ran the Grand Canyon in the mudfest year and it is a fantastic course. Didn’t need Grand Canyon views. Every other year would still be ok.
    Can you advertise more. I just heard about this series from a friend and I am on target to do all halves within a couple years. As much as I hate to let the secret out about your fantastic events I think more advertising would increase your numbers.
    Good Luck!

    • Ryan Jenkins says:

      Hi Kristie, thanks for your comment. We do spend quite a bit of money advertising but are always interested in hearing suggestions for improvement, especially when it comes to spreading the word about our events. Are there particular places you think our advertising budget would be well spent?

      • Guzal says:

        I saw it on Instagram as a pushed advertisement between friend’s picture feeds and immediately signed up – so hat works for sure :)

      • Nancy says:

        I’m from the east coast and only found out about th e Grand Canyon half by accident. I have asked other fellow runners and clubs in my area and none were aware of the National Park series. Which tells me some of your marketing may not be hitting areas of potential runners. Have you thought of hitting the big marathons here Boston New York and Chicago as areas of advetising? I think it’s an untapped market for you. Also have you thought about having some folks become ambassadors for your races. You give them races bibs in exchange and they help promote your races at different running events, running clubs etc. just some thoughts to consider. Love to help you out getting the word out on the race series

        • Kaelee Clifford says:

          Hi Nancy – Thank you for your suggestions. We do have ambassadors for our races but it is a fairly new program that we hope to grow.

  • Standclark says:

    Any hope of bringing back Monument Valley,ultra? Also, can’t find results link to the 2016 MV event?

    • Kaelee Clifford says:

      Hi – Unfortunately, we will not be able to hold the Monument Vally Ultra in the future due to permitting issues.
      As for the 2016 results, we have changed registration systems and still need to upload the 2016 results, so they are not publicly available yet.

  • Karen Girard says:

    I registered for the Gator Double Everglades 2017 race and transferred to 2018, but since 2018 has now been cancelled and wont be able to do another race due to a job loss, how do I obtain a refund?

  • Sabrina Hoops says:

    I’ve only run one of your races (Smokey Mountains) and it was great!! If Irma hadn’t foiled my plans I would have been there again this last fall. :o) I do think a rotating system could work. If so, it would be helpful to have a good online calendar with plenty of advance notice. I also might suggest – if you can find suitable locations – to hold races in the southeast. I’m a Florida girl, and to be honest, the costs of flights to get out west just aren’t doable on a regular basis, at least for me at this time. I run a race 10 months of the year, sometimes even two in a month, so I’m either running here in Florida or in both Carolinas, Georgia, and even Kentucky. Although I want to do your other races out west, that kind of trip requires me to plan to be there longer and with greater overall cost. I more easily get away to anywhere in the southeast for the weekend and I can bring the kids on occasion. I think the southeast states are fairly runner-friendly, so maybe you can find additional success there. Thanks!

  • Clare Greiner says:

    My sister ran the coyote double last year and I was along for the ride. The races were great! I volunteered at both events and saw the incredible amount of work that goes into these events. I feel that the races are a great event but you need to do what will work for you guys as to not lose money and potentially no longer do. In the long run I don’t think most people are going to do all the races every year so if you had to alternate that is fine. I’m looking forward to doing the my first 5k at the Smoky Mountain event in September!!!!!

  • Beth says:

    Everglades is still on my bucket list and I didn’t care about the out and back. I was crushed when it was canceled and an now even more crushed. For me, it was the wildlife opportunity. I was ready for the gators! I would live to see it rotate and think it would gain more interest that way. I would still love to see it on your schedule. I travel to giur races from WY and for me… the biggest factor is travel costs. I can only afford to do one of your races a year. I did Yosemite and spent a lot of money to fly to CA and stay—- the vacation part of vacation races. I did the same With Everglades… still had a trip and ran a different race. I honestly think people didn’t register because of the hurricane and you may always battle that there. Plannig to run Great Smokey this year!

  • Jeff Kenney says:

    I ran the first Everglades race, would love to see it come back. Every other year is fine.

  • Kelly Haun says:

    My Husband and I sighed up for this, due to Mother Nature was not able to happen. Continued on our vacation race,
    turned into ymca 5K Jingle Bell run, we explored the Everglades and would recommend.

  • Greg Hunger says:

    Have you considered adding level awards for number of races run (Similar to RNR Series). I don’t know that there are enough to justify yearly, but maybe some special award if one runs all the races or doubles, etc? Maybe a cool looking shirt with all the races on the back that we could wear at other runs to help spread the word?

  • Deb Domack says:

    My first vacation Races were this year and happened to be the coyote double (Grand Canyon and Lake Powell). And ironically was I was hoping to Everglades was on this year to sneak away for a long weekend.

    You are making reasonable business decisions. I like the concept of rotating the races so that there is s I’ll opportunity to run them.

    I would love to run all the races every year but things like work get in the way (hahah).

    I am on the path of participating in 1-2 races a year minimum. Looking forward to Shenandoah and Smokey Mountains this year.

    Your concept of getting people to the National parks is working. Keep up the great job.

  • Kristy Tarsha says:

    For me rotating races would be a positive. I only do one-two out of state races a year. Rotating races would help me plan which races to do as I would like to do all the 1/2 marathons Vacation Races offers (I’ve done 3 with 2 more on the calendar for 2018).

    Has Vacation Races ever co-hosted or participated in #BibChat on Twitter? I recently became aware of the weekly running focused chat and there are lots of runners on that weekly chat could go quite a ways in getting the VR name to a larger audience.

  • Anne says:

    I loved the Coyote Double last year. We were able to add a rim to rim hike of the Grand Canyon, other day hikes of the Grand Canyon, and then site seeing around Page between races. It was the perfect time of year for that area.
    Any chance you have any of the leftover race swag that participants who earned it can buy now?

  • steve says:

    I’ve done Zion, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone and have Antelope Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Joshua Tree, and Joshua Tree on my bucket list. I might to Grand Canyon also. So, what goes into my decision making process? I avoid the trail runs because when it rains, these are no fun. Are there conflicts with other races? I do enjoy the challenges, so those increase the odds of me participating. Shirts and medals are a positive as well as the post-race challenges, but these can be more difficult on the timing aspect when doing doubles. Maybe allow pictures to be taken with the bib before they run the race. Merchandise at expo can be better. As far as advertising, I would definitely put something in Runner’s World and get some ambassadors to be at expo’s for other races (Disney, Rock and Roll, P’tree Road Race, etc)

  • Samantha S. says:

    I will preface this by saying that from a business standpoint I understand the decisions you’ve had to make and know that none of them are easy. However, I do think that completely ‘sunsetting’ a race based off a one year comparison –especially one that was marked by an early and voracious hurricane/fire season– is premature.

    Do to the nature of my career I have to be a long range planner when it comes to time off, and would definitely get on board, and be ecstatic with a rotating race schedule and a multi-year race calendar. My goal is to run every half you organize and to keep running them, but I can only make 1-2 races per year work right now (possibly 3, if I could get away for a full week and catch one of the 1/2 doubles). Which means I’m running a new set of races each year and am not currently re-running courses. Honestly, I would be more than happy to run the Glacier Half every year for the rest of my life (that course is spectacular and challenging), but because I want to run them all, it’s not on my calendar for this year. With rotating races I would start re-running favorite courses sooner rather than later.

    I will echo the sentiments of those that are disappointed that there will be no opportunity for a 2018 Everglades/Biscayne race. I found out about it too late in 2016 to make the inaugural race, signed up for the Gator Double in 2017 and was thwarted by hurricane season. I planned to sign up for the 2018 race as soon as registration opened, and am now trying to adjust plans to see if something other than Everglades will work as my second race of 2018 (Great Smoky Mtns. is already locked in). For 2019 I’m planning on Yosemite and either Mt. Rushmore or Lake Powell (or Everglades…yes, I really want to run the glades).

    I second looking at co-hosting a twitter chat if you haven’t already. It’s an easy and great way to reach the global outdoor community. Some good ones are #bibchat, #runchat, #ukrunchat, #ultrachat, #bqchat, and #parkchat. They are all held weekly and participants are all runners and/or outdoor enthusiasts who support our National Parks & Public Lands.

    This is the only half-marathon series I participate in, it aligns with my passions and you guys put on phenomenal events in some of my favorite places in our nation. Thank you for soliciting the community’s opinions. Keep up the great work!

  • carrie says:

    Keep doing what your doing! Your races are amazing and I respect your decision to partner respectfully with the guardians of our wild spaces and the need to run a profitable business. Y’all are doing some amazing things! Keep it up!

  • Andrew says:

    I have run the Yosemite, the Zion, the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountain and all of them were amazing races. I’m glad I was able to get the Grand Canyon in before it was eliminated. This year I am running the Grand Teton and the Lake Powell. I have no problem with you rotating between races. Just stop creating new ones, I am having a really hard time keeping up!

  • […] you may have read our announcement a few weeks ago that we won’t be holding certain events in 2018. Well, we’re excited to share the rest of the story with you. We have a fantastic collection of […]

  • Mary Ann Keller says:

    I am hoping you will bring the Everglades back. I think alternating years is a great idea. Love your races and recommend them to everyone I know.

  • Anita Banks says:

    I would love to see the Everglades race come back, it has been on my wish list, as well as some of the others. Rotating the schedule would be a great idea.

  • Andrea R. says:

    So sad to hear Everglades is canceled infinitely. I was so sad it had to be canceled in 2017. Hopefully in 2019 it can come back.

  • Tim Redmond says:

    With a rotation would you be able to setup a series of rotating events by region? (i.e. a south west region south east north east etc.) – I am from MD so some closer and some further away would be great. Just a thought… thanks and keep up the great work of inspiring the love of our national parks!

  • Guzal says:

    I will be signing up for Grand Canyon in 2019 for sure if you bring it back

  • Guzal says:

    I will definitely sign up for Grand Canyon in 2019 if you bring it back!

  • Lily says:

    I still wanted to do the Everglades and am disappointed it is gone

  • Moreno says:

    It looks looks like the Coastal Redwoods trailfest is off the calendar. Just curious if this was going to be permanent or rotating? I missed it this year, and would love to take a shot at it one day.

    • Kaelee Clifford says:

      Hi Moreno – While we loved the event and the area, there weren’t enough registrations to make it possible to return to hold this event. It’s possible but unlikely, unfortunately. If the event does come back in the future, it will be announced on our website, via email, and our Facebook page, Ultra Adventures.

  • Tyler Hunter says:

    I absolutely love your race series and everything you guys do. Thank you so much for your hard work with organizing and hosting all of these. I’m very interested in doing the Everglades Half and the Grand Canyon Half. As soon as you have them, I’m in. But as a business owner, I certainly understand the economics behind such cancellations and concerns. Hopefully you have them again!

    • Kaelee Clifford says:

      Hi Tyler – The Grand Canyon Half Marathon will be held next year. Everglades is a little more unsure – it’s not on the schedule as of now. We hope to see you at Grand Canyon next year!

  • Kelly says:

    Do you have a place to see all the dates for 2019 so I can run them all within a year?

  • Tricia Cooper says:

    So Ryan it is my understanding that you will be offering the Grand Canyon Half in 2019? If so what are the dates? My 12 year old and I loved the Grand Teton half 2 yrs ago and hope to run the Yellowstone as well. But we have our hearts set on the Grand Canyon in 2019… Thank you for all the hard work you and your team do for us Crazy in love with running peeps!

    • Ryan Jenkins says:

      Thanks for your comment and your enthusiasm Tricia! We haven’t announced dates for the 2019 Grand Canyon Half yet but stay tuned… we’ll be putting more details out there soon.

      In particular, get on our Reminders email list [https://vacationraces.com/email-management/] and follow us on Facebook [http://facebook.com/vacationraces] to find out when dates are announced.

  • Stephanie Herriman says:

    I really want to run The Everglades Half. It would be great even every other year!!

  • Jaimie says:

    For what you guys were saying about the Grand Canyon in the Lake Powell maybe you should have told people that’s what you wanted them to do our made a package deal for both of them that way people would have stayed for the weekend you could have done like Runners perks like they do in Las Vegas for the parks. If you want more people to come you have to offer things, cupons and discounts for things to do in the area.

  • Julie Love says:

    Lake Powell should definitely be a yearly event!

  • bing says:

    Waiting for 2019 Lake Powell registration to become open so I can sign up!
    Would tracking each VR site (by year) traffic help u predict the demand/interest?

  • Nathan Whitfield says:

    Thanks for what you have pulled and continue to pull together! Too bad that too many are confused about where time, money, and energy should be spent from the common citizen to America’s leadership. I hope some day, the US develops a better model for sustaining and appreciating our amazing landscape and sense of fitness which truly will make a difference on how a healthy nation leads and looks.

  • Rose Horton says:

    I would like to cancel the Grand Canyon Half Marsthon 2019 and the t shirt that I paid with my credit card in early December 2018. There is no phone number listed for your organization . How do I cancel?
    My name is Rose Horton
    The runners name is Mathew Palacios.
    My ph 714-936-5686
    Please call me?
    Thank you .

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