RunUltra, one year on – Interview with Steve Diederich, founder

Last updated: 06-Nov-18

RunUltra is a year old and to celebrate our birthday, we thought we would talk to the man behind it, Steve Diederich. Steve is a longstanding supporter of the ultra community, as an event organiser and supporter. He has been there, done it and got the T-shirt (and a wristband if you are really lucky). So, why did he set up RunUltra and how does he think it is going? Here he shares his passion for the sport with us, and tells us why he does what he does.

Q: Who is Steve Diederich?

A: OK, I am on the couch now! I am a little “left-field” and I am drawn to those who are, and things that are, a little bit bonkers… And ultra running fits right in here. I am really lucky inasmuch as I spend a lot of time at Ultra races. I like multi-day races the most, due to the relationships that form between runners and the more unusual environment they often enjoy. The RunUltra strapline of “Extraordinary people doing Extraordinary things in Amazing places” defines the world that I am really privileged to hang out in. I have met some of the most unusual and talented people whilst on these events. I am mostly to be found as part of the organisers’ team on the course in some role – usually photographing the events and spending time with runners. Outside of the events, I help organise a few multi-day ultras and I am also involved in a cycle race… equally fascinating. I am happiest doing anything that involves me being outdoors. Add in competition and a weird location and you will find me there.  

Q: What is your running history?

A: I have been running for years. I started as a schoolboy runner in cross-country. The simple joy of putting one foot in front of the other is hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t do it. For me it is much more than the physical. I love the challenge. I love the feeling of getting up on a cold rainy morning when all the “right minded” people have got their noses peeking out from under their duvets not wanting to get out of bed.

What I really love is what it does for your soul, after the first 20 minutes of running you forget the aches and pains and then the best ideas, thoughts and feelings come to you. During my 20’s I used to get shin splints from pavement pounding, so moved to trail running and have never looked back, my daily run involves me covering 200mtrs of road before going off on a trail… and I grimace until my feet land on the rough stuff.

I started running competitively when working overseas initially in Athens (that was hot and polluted marathon run) and then in Malta (that is one holy island). When I lived in ski resorts in France, I entered skiathlons (downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and running… on snow) and that is where I developed my passion for trail running.

Q: Why did you start up RunUltra?

A: I came to ultra running 11 years ago in the Marathon des Sables. At the time, I looked at how many ultras I could count and I came up with around 200. Now as an organiser, I get asked all the time what other races I would recommend. When I started to research this over 2 years ago, that number came to over 1,300. However, it is nigh on impossible to sort out which ones would suit you, which ones are great and which you should steer clear of. Navigating the number of ultras that have appeared over the past few years is a bit of a minefield. RunUltra seeks to make sense of the sheer volume, type and quality of these events, whilst giving runners tips on nutrition, training, updates on kit and race reviews. Of course I couldn’t do any this by myself. I am really privileged to have a great, talented team at RunUltra behind me. We are now seven in total excluding our industry-leading guest contributors. We all share the same passion to make RunUltra the best resource and community site around.

Q: What exactly does RunUltra include?

A: Unfortunately, it is a sad reality that there are some really poor races out there that pay little attention to runners’ well-being and safety, and then there are some great races where the organisers and race directors devote their every waking moment to making sure the runners have an amazing experience. I liken us to a “Tripadvisor” for ultras, our mainstay is our race reviews. We encourage anyone who has written a race to come on to RunUltra and put in a review for it. That way the ultra community can have its own voice and share information on the different events. We also commission bigger review pieces from participants and writers and we season it all with a big sprinkling of interesting and relevant articles on all things related to ultra running. We have got plans to add lots more of this content onto the site. Tripadvisor – that is where we will be getting to, with the help and experience of the ultra community. All in all, it’s an exciting time for us.

Q: Who is using RunUltra?

A: We have a huge variety of people. We span over 30 countries in terms of visitors and members and list races in every continent. Well not quite, as we have yet to find an ultra in Antarctica! We have runners aged 15 to 77, and race organisers who are using RunUltra to get their races exposure to the ultra running community across the globe. What is really interesting for us is the number of “newbie” ultra runners who are joining us. Ultra running is growing at a huge rate, and we are really pleased that those runners are using our site as a resource.

Q: It is a year on. Are you happy with what it has achieved so far?

A: Happy? Delighted, revved, stoked… all of these! The response and level of engagement we are getting from both organisers and runners is really encouraging. It doesn’t feel like a year on. We are in this for the long term. There are no quick wins to being the best.

Q: What are you hoping for next year?

A: We are a long way from where I would like ultra running and RunUltra to be. Both have so much potential in them to grow and develop and the great thing is that this growth and development primarily comes from runners themselves. On a personal level, I am hoping that the developing field of great runners, who are surfacing from the UK, will get the success that they deserve. I hope that the phenomenal athletes who dominate the sport, get the recognition they should have within the athletic community. I hope that the growing trend among runners to run beyond a marathon continues to grow at the phenomenal rate that it currently is enjoying.

Q: And what is YOUR favourite race? Which one would you write a rave review for?

Come on… You know better than to ask that question… go read the reviews on RunUltra!

Photo credit: Ian Corless.

"Navigating the number of ultras that have appeared over the past few years is a bit of a minefield. RunUltra seeks to make sense of the sheer volume, type and quality of these events, whilst giving runners tips on nutrition, training, updates on kit and race reviews"

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