Philip here. I reached out to Chris McWatters recently, because we at ATRC love the Tejas Trails racing organization, and I thought would be helpful to have a little peek behind the scenes at what drives a person to direct races and bring life changing experiences to people out on the trails. The interview questions are below:
Austin Trail Running Company (ATRC): When did you first consider directing races? How did you get started?
Chris Mcwatters, Tejas Trails (CM): It’s all I know really. My father and I got into timing, officiating, and meet directing track and field meets in Oklahoma way back when. Then my Dad moved into it full-time. He now times just under 300 meets a year (track, cross country, and a few road races). I worked with him on several projects in the sport of Track & Field. I directed my first major track meet when I was in my early 20s. After that, I moved to Texas kind of out of nowhere. I started an XTERRA off road triathlon at Camp Eagle. Helped manage a huge Mountain Bike Festival, Cyclocross, Duathlon, Climbing Competition, Adventure Race, and on and on. Later I launched a trail run. Then once Joe and Joyce were ready to retire, I got the privilege of taking over Tejas Trails. I took over 9 races. Now I manage around 20 events. I love it! It’s all I plan to do the rest of my life God willing and the creek don’t rise (as they say…whoever they are).
ATRC: What’s the one thing runners can do to make your job easier?
CM: Don’t begin a question with, “I know your policies say this, but…”. It’s pretty amazing how many humans think the world revolves around them.
ATRC: What would be your advice to someone looking to run their first trail race?
CM: Get involved. Run with others on trails. Volunteer. Ask questions. It’s a completely different sport than other running and endurance events. Folks won’t mind if you’re slow or fast or somewhere between; or if your goal is a 200 miler or a 5km. It’s all good! I learned so much by simply running with others on different types of terrains. Plus it made race weekend so much more fun, because I knew some folks. Those are still friends I have today.
ATRC: What’s your coolest story from your time race directing?
CM: This is sooooo hard! There’s no way I could pick one story that tops all of ’em. Obviously working in the wilderness with a bunch of nuts friends provides a constant stream of stories! I honestly get super stoked watching the elite racers come in, lap after lap, racing 50, 62, 100 miles. It’s amazing! But I get equally stoked to see those jogging, hiking, surviving, but refusing to quit. Staying out to the edge of the cutoffs, even beyond.
Both of those two groups are both so inspiring to me! During low moments in my personal life, I think about the stories of people I’ve met who come from both those two groups.
When things in my life aren’t going great or I’m racing or running a long run and wanting to quit…I picture those people’s faces I’ve met at the finish line. I have a special privilege – I basically get to have my life changed for the better every few weeks. Not a lot of people get that honor! I don’t take it lightly!