From Passion Project to Trail Running Hub
In the world of endurance sports, UltraSignup is a name that echoes through the trails and ultra races, having made a significant impact as the go-to race registration platform for trail events. Founded in 2009 by Mark Gilligan, a Bay Area software developer and passionate ultra runner, UltraSignup has evolved from a passion project into a thriving community. This is the story of UltraSignup and the trail running industry it has grown alongside.
A Growing Industry: Trail and Ultra Running
The world of trail and ultra running has a rich history in the United States. Several hundred ultramarathons are held annually across North America, with some notable races like the Western States Endurance Run, the oldest 100-mile trail run that still exists. This event was founded in 1977 by Wendell Robie, marking a pivotal moment in the sport's history. In the early 1980s, Gary "Lazarus Lake" Cantrell and Karl "Raw Dog" Henn gave birth to the legendary Barkley Marathons, known for both its difficulty and its secretive nature. As of 2022, only fifteen runners have ever completed the 100-mile course.
The sport continued to evolve, with unique races popping up globally. Then in 2006, the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame was established, honoring individuals who made significant contributions to the sport.
The Man Behind UltraSignup
In the midst of the sport's growth, Mark Gilligan, an active and competitive ultra runner, recognized a problem that needed solving in the world of trail and ultra running. His unique position allowed him to combine his passion for running with his expertise in tech. He set out to build a platform that would support both athletes and race organizers.
Around 2009, as Mark was developing UltraSignup, there were competitors in the race registration platform space. These platforms aimed to address various issues, but Mark's key differentiator was his personal connection with the sport and its community.
It was a labor of love, a passion project. As the sport continued to grow, Mark had to adapt. He listened to the needs of runners and race directors, balancing the development of features that would benefit both. The platform grew in tandem with the sport, but its rapid expansion demanded more hands on deck.
Between 2009 and 2020, Mark enlisted the help a couple of fellow runners also dedicated to the sport. Yet, there came a point where one person couldn't steer the ship any further. It was a crossroads for Mark – either build a team to pave the future of UltraSignup or pass the baton to someone who could. In 2020, during the global pandemic, he chose the former.
He sold UltraSignup to five partners in Nashville, Tennessee, a group consisting of tech entrepreneurs, an attorney, a developer, and, most importantly, ultra runners. Since then, the team has grown significantly, expanding to include a news site, podcast, a merchandise store, and more exciting developments on the horizon.
The Competitive Landscape and UltraSignup's Future
Today, UltraSignup is more than a platform; it's a thriving hub for the trail running community. While UltraSignup was born out of Mark's passion, it now thrives with the collective dedication of its team members. The competitive landscape in the race registration platform industry has evolved, but UltraSignup's deep roots in the sport and its strong community focus set it apart.
The trail running industry has seen remarkable growth and innovation over the years. As more individuals seek the thrill of the trails and ultra races, the sport's future appears bright. UltraSignup's goal is to continue evolving in harmony with the industry's growth, catering to the needs of both runners and event organizers.
In a world that reverberates with the sound of footfalls on the trail, UltraSignup remains a symbol of passion, dedication, and community in the realm of trail and ultra running. As the sport continues to reach new heights, UltraSignup is poised to be right there, alongside every runner and race director on their journey.