Diversity and inclusion – An interview with race director Aaron Saft

Aaron Saft is the owner of Foot Rx in Asheville, NC, a track and field marathon champion, and the owner of MR Runningpains, an event company that hosts a series of races that we recommend you check out. He has been a regular participating speaker at the US Trail Running Conference over the last few years, and is also a darn fast trail runner to boot! We recently had the opportunity to interview Aaron about his experience at the 2018 Conference, and here is the result:

Aaron, for those who don’t know what you do, can you share a brief background on your history with running on trails, Foot Rx, and MR Runningpains? (Aaron is at far right on the panel above from the 2018 US Trail Running Conference.)
I’ve been running for 29 years, and Trail Running has always been a part of that experience as I grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York. I started racing trail specific races after graduating College in 2000. In 2007 I opened my running Store, Foot Rx and starting putting on Races. My event company, MR Runningpains was formed in 2017. I put on races ranging from the Healthy Kids Running Series (ages 2 & up) all the way up to 100 miles.

You were one of our guest speakers at the 2018 US Trail Running Conference. What things did you enjoy most about the Conference last year, and what changes have you seen over the last few years?
As always, I enjoy seeing old friends & making new ones, sharing ideas and best practices with them as we catch up with one another after another year of putting on events. I also enjoyed learning more about the Athletes with Disabilities division (AWD) and how I can incorporate that into my events. So far as how the Conference has changed, the panel formats are a bit more diverse creating more opportunities for the audience to participate. I also have noticed the themes of each Conference create great opportunities for new and varied topics, so it’s not the same information each year.

After the Conference last year you decided to introduce an athletes with disabilities division in your races. Can you share what prompted you to make this change, and how you plan to introduce the additional divisions? 
I created a new event at the end of 2018 and after attending the Conference, and due to what I learned at the Conference, I decided to incorporate an Athletes with disabilities division (AWD) to allow for more diversity at my event and give the opportunity to those athletes that may not have many events that offer this division.

Have you been working with any blind or VI athletes on future race plans?
After meeting Kyle Robidoux at the Conference, I have remained in touch with him and he has been a great source for guidance and information on the AWD division. (See our recent interview with Kyle and his mission to raise awareness for athletes with disabilities at this link.)

What are you future dreams for your races and blind / VI athlete participation?
In the future, I would like to incorporate this division into as many races as possible .

What are other initiatives do you have under way to welcome other groups that are currently under represented in trail races?
Currently we are discussing ways to be more inclusive to females at our 100 mile event.

Thank you Aaron, we look forward to seeing you back in Estes Park, October 9-12, for the 2019 US Trail Running Conference, presented by Race Roster, the fastest growing registration platform in North America.
You can register at this link – there are options for both race directors, and trail runners.