I am partnered with three new sponsors in 2015 – Adidas, Nathan Sports, and New Belgium – all of which are a result of being added to the Adidas Ultra (adiUltra) Team. It was a great privilege to accept an invitation to join the team. Ian Torrence acts as team manager and, at least in the ultra world, is an absolute stud (outside of the ultra world, he is still a stud in my mind). His breadth of knowledge as a coach, his longstanding history of top finishes as a competitor, and his honesty and kindness as a friend jointly make him one of the best folks to have in your corner. I’m very proud, and very happy, to be working with him closely in 2015. In addition to Ian, the team consists of some top-level runners with strong resumes and it’s good to be in such talented company. Nathan and New Belgium, along with Adidas, provide adiUltra team members with material support and they have already proved excellent companies to partner with outstanding products.

I’ll mention some things about each of the new sponsors and then comment on sponsorship generally.

1. Adidas. They make a whole host of products – so many that you could know the company without knowing they make running-specific gear and shoes. I had run in the Adidas Adios – a light road shoe – prior to 2015 in a few marathons, but I was not aware of their wide range of running attire and accessories, along with their various shoe lines, including several trail shoes, aside from their road shoes. I have been thoroughly impressed with the quality in Adidas running products over the past few months – jackets, tights, shorts, singlets, shirts, jackets, gloves, hats, shoes, etcetera – and they only seem to be improving, as the new XT5 looks like their best trail shoe yet.

2. Nathan Sports. Nathan is truly doing good things for runners. They’ve expanded beyond mere hydration – their primary product line – with a Performance Gear line that includes handheld flashlights, reflective gear, sport-specific laundry detergent pods, and their trademark Power Shower Wipes, which give you the ability to freshen up in cases where a shower isn’t available. And while I’ve used a great number of hydration products from a great variety of companies, I can genuinely say that Nathan produces the most functional and comfortable hydration products on the market: whether you need a pack, a handheld, or a waist belt, you really should try them out.

3. New Belgium. I’m a big fan of beer, a big fan of craft beer, and a big fan of Colorado, so naturally I’m a big New Belgium fan. Although New Belgium provides support in the form of beer for the adiUltra Team, they typically do so only at events so I haven’t had the chance to imbibe as much as I might like. Nevertheless, if you are an IPA fan, their Ranger IPA is a solid choice. More generally, though, it’s good to see beer companies saturating the ultra community – a community rife with imbibers and appreciators – as Matt Flaherty recently noted in this piece.

Sponsorship, generally speaking, seems a good thing for the sport of ultrarunning, contrary to what some have said. It professionalizes the sport. It, in some abstract and non-genuine sense, legitimizes the sport, too. Companies are stamping the sport with an implicit approval when they are willing to sponsor athletes. In some ways that may not necessarily be a good thing. But in other quite obvious ways it is indeed good, at least for athletes: it allows them to pursue their passion. Whether or not it is a good thing for a society to allow people to pursue sport professionally rather than as a hobby is a further question (the NFL, I think, provides a strong case that it is not a good thing), but there don’t seem to be many, if any, negative side effects of trail runners being able to run long distances at little cost, no cost, for a profit, or even as a career.

With that said, sponsorship in ultrarunning today is very much a matter of being in the right place at the right time – setting aside the most elite athletes who gain sponsorship solely based on their performances. Sponsorship for most of us is about presenting a fuller package than just performance: a general presence, which includes performance but also an off-trail presence, that is, from the perspective of a company, worth investing in. But the sponsorship window is increasingly slim as more and more runners seek it, so you really do have to approach the right company at the right time. I have been very lucky in that regard and I’m extremely thankful for the sponsorship relationships that I have.

Here’s to an exciting 2015!