A Peek into the Life of a Race Director

April 19, 2021

Although ultra-runners spend a majority of their time running and training, most of them have to work and make a living as well. It’s interesting to learn about the various careers of runners that keep them financially able to race and travel, and whether they have jobs that follow their passion for running. For an ultra-runner, what is the next best thing besides racing? How about being a race director? We interviewed one of Team Injinji’s elite runners and Race Director of Bad to the Bone Sports, Francesca Conte, on what it’s like being a Race Director.

Francesca has been a runner for over 20 years and fell in love with Injinji socks after having major blister problems at her first Badwater 135 in 2002. She has run several major races blister-free since then, including the Western States, Wasatch 100, Old Dominion 100, Cascade Crest, and many more. When she isn’t running, typically during the winter months, you can find her snowboarding the backcountry of Breckenridge, CO, where her second home is located.

Francesca’s other half, James Russell Gill III, who is also a Team Injinji athlete, founded Bad to the Bone Sports with the help of Francesca, in Charlottesville, VA. Being about an hour from Richmond and close to Washington, DC., this town contains a lot of history and tourism, but had no major marathons or races until they established Bad to the Bone Sports in 2001. They offer events that range from 5k to marathon distance on the road, all the way to 100k ultras on the trails. In the past 20 years, the town has been booming in the wine country scene, making Albemarle Wine Country and surrounding area the perfect venues for their races. Several of their largest events take place at wineries: The Ultra Race of Champions at 12 Ridges Vineyard and the Charlottesville Marathon at Knights Gambit Vineyard.

The next two races on the 2021 Bad to the Bone circuit will be happening in person, with the second one being the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) on April 30/May 1st, 2021. This 10th Annual event is one of the premiere ultras in the world with a challenging, yet beautiful course with views of the 12 Ridges Vineyard, Skylark Farm and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although the UROC is open to all runners, it brings in the top elite racers and ambassadors on an invite basis.

Along with directing races in person, Francesca can’t wait to get back to racing this year herself. If everything continues to open up, she will be competing at the San Diego 100, Tahoe 100 and Leadville 100 later this year. We congratulate both Gill and Francesca for being able to turn their passion of running into a lifestyle, and the two of them “can always be found on top of a mountain searching for the next challenge.”