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What the UTMB Whistler fiasco teaches us about choice and power.

November 11, 2023 3 min read

What the UTMB Whistler fiasco teaches us about choice and power.


Here at ioMerino, most of us are trail runners. Most of us aren’t particularly good at it, the boss is ‘retired hurt’ and rides a bike now, but most of us hit the trails and have even run a few UTMB events. Actually, ioMerino even used to sponsor Ultra Trail Australia in Australia’s Blue Mountains - although that ended not long after Ironman took over.

So we were all pretty interested when we saw what we’ll call ‘The Whistler Fiasco’ erupt. If you’re into trail running you’ll almost certainly know what we’re talking about. But for everyone else, the super short version is a big trail running event company (part of the Ironman group) went in and ‘took over’ a location where a smaller independent used to run an event in Whistler. There’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the idea.

Unsurprisingly, or actually, maybe a little surprisingly, chaos ensued.

Some of us still remember the introduction of the whole Ultra Trail World Series where we all felt like our sport was ‘coming of age’ and that seemed like a good thing. Fast forward to now, and plenty of us aren’t so sure.

But here’s the thing: in amongst all the protesting and shouting and, yes, we’ll say it, whinging, we see events like Eastern States doing the most powerful thing of all - making a choice to not be a part of it.

Big organisations like Ironman have power and influence. But as individuals we have power too. And a lot of it. Especially when we get together.

Don’t like a race (or who runs it)? Don’t enter it. They won’t notice one person not entering. But 10? 100? 1,000? They’ll get the message. Eventually.

It’s the same anywhere money is a factor. Don’t like sweatshops? Don’t buy stuff from companies who make stuff in them.

Prefer races that support the community not profits, run more of those type of races and less of the other. (It's one of the reasons we love sponsoring our local not for profit Trail Running SA events so much!)

Don’t like micro plastics in the water? Don’t buy clothes made from plastic.

It’s all pretty simple, but with one important footnote: sometimes there’s a cost. Financial or otherwise.

Not supporting Ironman might mean you miss out on a race you really wanted to do. Not buying stinky, but cheap, synthetics, might mean you don’t get to wear that little swoosh on your top or have to buy a brand no one’s heard of, or even pay more for a top because of how it’s made and what it’s made from.

As the old saying goes ‘principles aren’t principles until they cost you money’.

So a massive shoutout to Eastern States for making the choice they did. And, of course, they’re probably in a position where they can make a decision like that without too many consequences anyway. But still, here’s to the people who lead by example.

And here’s to the people who choose what they wear based on more than just pretty colours, recognisable logos, famous athlete endorsements and/or low prices.

And yes, of course this is a shameless, unapologetic plug for our own clothing. Because it’s bloody hard competing with the big, cashed up multinationals and bloody frustrating listening to people complain about things like sweatshops and micro plastics but then not be willing to pay more for an amazing alternative. Before you say it, yes, we also know some people simply can’t afford certain things… like a merino top when they can buy a synthetic one for maybe half the price.

But at some point we all get to make choices that have real world consequences and outcomes. 

We get to vote with our wallets. (Or purses. Or cards. Or whatever it is we use to pay for things these days.)

All we ask is that you at least consider your choices and the power they have. And the consequences.

You might only be one person, but together we’re a force to reckoned with.

Organisations like Ironman would do well to remember that.

And we’ve got a funny feeling they’re about to find that out The hard way.