Tuesday, June 7, 2011

10 Years of the FootZone Dirty Half

A little Dirty history... the Dirty Half started in 2002 primarily because there weren't any trail running events at the time in Central Oregon. That seemed borderline criminal in our trail rich community so at FootZone we decided to change that. SuperDave is full of good ideas and he was willing to take the lead on this one. A half marathon seemed like the perfect distance (not too long, but long enough) and there really weren't many mid distance trail runs anywhere in the West. So it began, Dave pulled together a course, got the permits and the first year had about 150 runners.
The focus was always (and still is) to make this a super cool event for the participants. So many events were really focused on the cause and we thought it would be fun to do one focused on the participant. We always asked ourselves what we would want and tried to make that happen. First, it had to be an interesting, fun course on the dirt (we knew this wouldn't work for all but would really work for some). Second, we wanted awesome technical race shirts with cool logos. Sure, nowadays every event has a tech tee but Dirty Half was the first in Central Oregon. At the time, none of us had done an event anywhere that used a tech tee. The logo was and continues to be the work of Jeff Browning aka Bronco Billy, local ultra runner and graphic designer extraordinaire. Some years we have to pry it out of him with several beers and some logos have been stronger than others but Jeff has always come through. He'll be quick to point out that it was his idea to change the logo every year. It has been a fun part of the event and job security for Jeff. Third, we've always worked to have a cool finisher’s prize, something you could ideally drink a beverage from at the finish line. Some years we've done socks but generally it's been able to hold liquid. Last year was especially cool as we brought in the very first order of SILIPINTS to Central Oregon.
As far as food, Nancy P's was and is our sought after choice to make copious amounts of finish line treats that aren't skimpy on butter and sugar (two things people seem to like). Deschutes Brewery stepped up in 2006 and started brewing us the Down and Dirty IPA. We almost stopped putting on the race after that because we felt like it could get no better but then we added Taco Stand burritos and Pizza Mondo.
How about the money? Events are good business these days (and we don’t have a problem with that) but Dirty Half is a bit of a kick back. For the first 4 years we simply put every $ back into the event itself and did our best to spoil all participants rotten. At some point we realized that it was big enough and there was an opportunity to raise some funds for a cool local organization without taking anything away from the runners. Thus, since 2006 all the proceeds have gone to the Deschutes Land Trust. Dave is paid a modest race directing fee for all his work. Up until last year, FootZone paid Dave's race directing fee separately but now 1/2 comes from the Dirty Half and 1/2 comes from FootZone. We hope this all creates a reasonably priced event where you get more than what you pay for and truly support a great cause. We hope the Dirty Half is a little less hype and a little more fun.
This year the Dirty Half turns 10. We’re like parents who can’t believe how it has grown and even matured a little. The race is still full with 800 + runners like it has been for the past several years (although the Happy Girls Half took some pressure off this year). This 10th year brings a new course. We weren’t especially excited to change the course but through it all, we ended up with a positive relationship with the Forest Service. Change is hard but this is honestly a better course to spread runners out and provide a start/finish that is much more accessible.
That’s the story; we love this event and appreciate that so many of you do too. It’s great every year to see people getting excited about their first Dirty Half or their 6th. We love it that the fastest runners in town turn out most years while others see completing the Dirty Half as their ultimate running goal. We’ll keep trying to make it great so you can keep coming out and getting Dirty! Cheers-Teague