Cooper Knowlton is the Co-Founder of Trials of Miles, a race organization that's taken the running world by storm over the past couple years with their inventive approach to competition and killer content production to go along with it.
Earlier this month, ToM launched their third and biggest ever installment of "Chase the Throne", their patented multi-city single-elimination bracket challenge taking competitors through a series of visually thoughtful segments and distances over the course of four weeks. A mouthful, but just think of March Madness with runners instead of college basketball teams... and a few less Cinderella stories.
In 2020, when the Covid pandemic was raging and races were canceled all around the globe, Cooper emerged with "Chase the Throne" as a way for local runners to "virtually" compete against each other.
Bandit was less than two months old when we got the DM...
We jumped at the opportunity and it proved to be one of our better early biz decisions — getting our socks on the feet of local legends and current Bandit fam Erin Jaskot, Brendan Martin, Alana Levy, Ana Johnson, Francisco Balagtas, Tim Rossi, Johnny Zhang, and others. (Hi guys!)
Before we head into Round 2 and the infamous Williamsburg Bridge segment, we caught up with Cooper to see how things are going...
Cooper, this call will be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes.
As long as it's not video recorded... I would've worn a different outfit.
We wrote an intro, but should probably leave it to you to tell everyone what Trials of Miles is and what sets it apart. On your mark...
It's all running. It’s all races. It's really no broader than that. We try new formats based on whatever is speaking to us in the moment. Whatever excites us.
There's probably people who would look at the business model and say, this is really stupid that you guys are all over the place doing 50 events of 50 different kinds... Maybe that's fair in some way, but we're not going for simple. We're asking ourselves, is this going to be fun? Is this going to be something that we and everyone is else excited to wake up and work on?
Trials of Miles has all kinds of races, and we're deeply biased here, but it seems like Chase the Throne and various Fastest Known Time (FKT) challenges are at the heart of what you do.
The whole thing began in late 2019, so pre-covid, where we wanted to do an elimination mile concept. We were looking into permits and whatnot and then all of a sudden February '20 rolled around and everything went virtual.
People we're like, 'Alright, we'll make the Boston Marathon virtual... Go out and run 26.2 miles.' It was kind of uninspiring and I sensed a lack of excitement in the community by a lot of those. I started thinking through new ways of competing and approaching virtual races.
Runners can't stay bored for long...
Right. I think Trials of Miles helped fill a void for a lot of people who were doing tons of mileage during Covid, they were super fit, and they wanted to compete in an exciting way.
95% of what we're doing now is in-person, but Chase the Throne is a fun callback to the virtual days that I don't see us ever moving on from.
The virtual model must be nice on the ole family front as well. I do recall a little one has entered the chat since we last caught up...
Ha, yes, exactly. I have a kid and I have two jobs. I don't really have a lot of time to travel to races very much and when I do, it's typically for Trials of Miles. If I tried to tell my wife “Hey look, I'm gonna go and run the Chicago Marathon next weekend. She'd be like, "the fuck you are!"
The flexibility of the FKT model is great for me, but it also gives runners a ton of flexibility too. You can pick any night of the week to race the segment, and if something comes up, for example a childcare issue, you can easily change it up.
Anyone can throw their hat into the Chase the Throne ring and the vibe seems to skew more fun than serious. Do I have that right?
Yeah, Chase the Throne is meant to be a low-key, fun concept. Don't stress about it. Use it to gamify your weekly workout. Build it into your long run. This is not a serious thing... It's a virtual bracket competition in the middle of the winter.
It's all fun and games until the competition heats up...
That's true. And weird shit happens all the time. Last year we had Joe Dylan, a 2:14- 2:15 marathoner, just other-worldly, who won it the first year we did it. He signed up last year and was up against a solid 2:40 guy, still incredibly fast but just different skill levels. The other guy beat Joe by like 10 seconds. If they were toeing the line at a normal race that just might not ever happen.
This article is dropping during week 2, where half the original field will be eliminated. Any words of encouragement for these folks?
In response to some feedback in years past, we added in "The Dungeon" — a way for people who were knocked out to get back in. Sort of like the TV show Survivor. So if you’re eliminated in the first round you can race your way back into the bracket. Hope that helps, but again, don’t take any of this too seriously. I mean the entry fee is $22 bucks. That's cheaper than a cocktail in NYC.
Is there anything that happens during Chase the Throne that you didn't necessarily see coming?
What I've heard is that there are these funny/awesome relationships that form because of the format. When the bracket comes out, you're forced to look up your competitor and check out their times. And there are awesome words of encouragement. We hear that even people who are knocked out DM’ing their opponent like ‘good job, you crushed.’ We're going to do several meetups this time around too. Like I said, Chase the Throne isn’t meant to be an IRL experience, but we do want to provide that in case there are people who want it.
Last question, who you got?
Ask me again in three weeks.
We got our money on Mikey Lederhouse, but that Junnell boy has been known to win a race or two this side of town...
Are you Chasing the Throne? These could help.