Most couples take their honeymoon on a warm beach, where they spend their time sipping cocktails, eating room service and "adventuring" to nearby stores and restaurants. When Mallory and Jason Brooks got married, they chose a post-nuptial vacation they felt was more in tune with their passions. The newly married couple spent their 16-day honeymoon running and hiking the 200+ miles of the John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. A person (and in this case, a couple) must be fearless, strong and adventurous to willingly face such a challenge. Coincidentally, these are the same traits required of an entrepreneur.
In January of this year, Mallory and Jason founded Spectrum Trail Racing to host best in class race experiences for people of any age and any fitness level in some of the most unique and beautiful destinations Texas has to offer. They intend to make Texas a top destination for the world's elite trail runners. I had the chance to spend some time discussing this latest adventure with Mallory last week.
(Leo): You've had a great career as an outdoor athlete and a fitness coach, but what made you decide to start your own trail racing company?
(Mallory): After a year of racing and running trails in the Pacific Northwest, Jason and I were inspired, but knew we wanted to create our own series of races. We like to say that we've been doing "market research" with every stride we take. There are things we love about some classic races that we've done. Other races, however, better serve as examples of what we don't want to do. Beyond just the pros and cons, we have developed an infinite list of our own ideas for Spectrum races that no other race companies currently offer. For example, we'll be screening an outdoor adventure movie at the trail site for all the participants the night before each race. Jason and I have been in the fitness/running world long enough to establish many strong relationships that are each, in their own way, helping to make these races as great as they can possibly be.
(L): What is your vision for Spectrum?
(M): First and foremost, we can't wait to invite people to the amazing trails and properties we have found that are not only great for trail running, but are also worthy of a full weekend of camping and activities. More than just rugged, challenging terrain, Spectrum is finding land with open space for camping, live music, bonfires, horseshoes and frisbee. Also, we are getting away from "multiple-loop" races by finding trails where runners won't have to repeat mileage. After these races have been established, we will start to expand to more point-to-point longer distance trails. We are currently at the beginning stages of creating a 75k+ race that will take you from Texas to one of our favorite cities in America. We'll release more info as that race becomes more secured.
Our goal is to put Texas on the map as a major destination for high-caliber trail races. Spectrum will achieve that by directing well-run races with Texas landowners and by collaborating with local vendors for epic finish-line celebrations.
In addition to races, we are building an elite racing team. Our trail racers are some of the most amazing, well-rounded athletes in the world. We train together, design courses for the races together, and serve as ambassadors for the Spectrum Trail Series. Of our seven sponsored athletes, two are spearheading their own trail race for 2016/2017. We will eventually grow to a strong team of ten to twelve runners.
(L): Can you tell me a little more about your elite runners?
(M): Our runners don't necessarily need to set course records every race, but they will always be the first to stop and help a fellow racer in need. Throw out the chance of a Personal Record to support your competitor, and Spectrum will make sure you are recognized and rewarded for doing the right thing..
Our ultimate goal is to make elite trail racing into a financially viable career option like track or cycling by increasing the perks and compensation for our team.
(L): Who is the ideal "customer" for Spectrum and how do you reach them?
(M): A customer is anyone who can walk, jog or run that has a shred of an adventurous side. Trail running is vastly different than road running. In a road race, walking isn't as great of an option as it is in trail running. When you need to slow down on the trails, we just call it hiking. And who doesn't want to go for a catered hike?
(L): So it also sounds like road runners who want to try something new would be a great fit. Do you agree?
(M): Definitely. One reason trail running is growing so fast is road runners are getting burned out and injured by the repetitive pounding of pavement courses. Trails tend to reignite their love of running, and they typically lead to fewer running related injuries.
(L): How do you market your races?
(M): Our trail building events are the best way to reach out to new runners. The cost of hosting one of these is about the same as taking out a full-page ad in a popular magazine. What we provide the land owners through our volunteer trail work equals close to $5,000 and reaches out to nearly 200+ people that have never heard of us. Spectrum sees more value from word of mouth.
(L): What are your biggest challenges?
(M): Our biggest challenge is finding new trails that are long enough to challenge distance runners without having to resort to loops. We also want to build trail running into a spectator sport. Many of our races have the runners coming back through the start/finish area several times [but, to be clear, they aren't "looping" just passing through to begin a different segment of trail], so their friends and family can cheer them on.
Another challenge relates to our goal of making trail racing into a sport that is financially viable for elite runners. Spectrum Trail Racing will soon reach the point where we can provide prize money to our leaderboard runners. In order to do this, we must take additional steps to ensure we don't have any courses cut short, whether intentional or by accident.
Mallory and Jason Brooks are passionate, professional athletes with tremendous industry experience and relationships. Their expertise led them to the discovery that there is room for improvement in trail racing and gave them an opportunity to do something about it. It takes courage for an expert to take that step into the unknown world of entrepreneurship. Then again, I don't think it is any scarier than running 200 miles across the Sierra Nevada mountains. It's very exciting to see these two adventurers forge into the world of business. I wish them the best of luck!