Yesterday we opened a dialogue with the question, HAVE RUNNERS CHANGED?  Throughout the day we received responses, including the following via e-mail:
     As someone who has beening running/racing since I was 15 years of age(now 45), it amazes me that today’s runner loves the act of running, but has no interest in the sport of running.
     I have been running with a group of competitive age-group runners for the last 14+ years.  On the morning of the US Marathon Olympic Trials just a few weeks back, they did not even know the trials were taking place.  While they may know Deena Kastor from the expo at their last large city marathon, they probably don’t know Desi or Shalane.  They only know Kara only because Adam’s uncle runs with us from time to time.  They haven’t a clue as to Kenenisa Bekele or Mo Farah or Haile Gebrselassie.  I doubt they even know the difference between Ryan, Meb, Abdi or Dathan.  I am not sure why race directors even pay elites appearance fees when the masses don’t really care.  They are more concerned about their T-shirt and how cool their medals look.
     Running has become a sport for an upper class where you pay your exhorbitant entry fee, you run the race and you sip a latte after.  While I have had some financial success in my life, I love the sport and miss the days of helping set up for a race, racing, drinking a post race beer, getting an award, helping clean up and heading home for a nap.
     I believe that the running organizations (USATF, RRCA, Running USA, etc.) can start by doing a pre-Olympic Trials, pre-Olympics or at the very least a post-Olympics tour to every race and running store to engage the average runner.  Just my two cents.  
     All the best,
     Doug Horn
     Boca Raton, Florida
 — “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”  Yoda-Empire Strikes Back (1980)
     Thanks, Doug.  I have a friend in Boston who used to put together a post-Olympic ice skating tour sponsored by John Hancock Financial Services to take advantage of the Olympic spotlight.  Of course, ice skating can stage an exhibition, while running’s “Show” revolves around competition, and there are already numerous regularly scheduled races after each Olympics to choose from.  That said, Competitor Group has used the Exhibition model successfully at many of their Rock `n` Roll events by inviting one marquee athlete who can measure his/her effort out front, and still meet-and-greet fans before and after the race.
     After my original post HAVE RUNNERS CHANGED?, Darris Blackford, Race Director , Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon concluded his response with this:
     “With our new parrtnership with a local, world-renowned Children’s Hospital, we have figured out a way to not only “engage the masses” of runners and walkers, but we are also getting the non-running public to sit up and take notice and get behind our cause. We’ve got the best of both worlds here in Columbus, and I am proud to be a parrt of this running community.”

Darris’ response, in turn, generated the following message this morning in my email in-box, coming from my original blog poster:

     Hi Toni,

     I won’t beat a dead horse, but some additional thoughts after a few hours car ride and reading the follow-up comment on your blog.
     Before reading Darris’s comment I was going to write and express that as a sport we have Many, Many areas that we can define at success and Darris is very correct that Columbus, as well as many other races, is hitting the mark in many ‘success’ defined checkmarks. 
     The bigger conversation is about the Sport as a whole and the question, How Do We Want To Define Success?.  Unlike some other sports, we are way ahead of the game.  I think the point of part of our conversation on Monday is that our sport doesn’t have one leader (person or organization) that is pushing the buttons.  After reading the follow-up I probably would have added to my comments in the first place that our participants are very engaged in several of the key areas that are important, but aren’t engaged in areas that other people find important.  We aren’t all on the same page.
     If I were running The Meeting, I would draw our 6-7 important Pillars of Success (goals) , rate our perceived progress for each of them, and then lead a discussion on how those lowest scoring pillars could be enhanced, and how to create a multi-pillar engagement.
     Ok, I’m done! 🙂   Thanks for your time and conversation.
      As always, it is the goal of this blog to help move the conversation forward toward strengthening running as both a lifestyle of health and community involvement, while at the same time supporting it as a professional sport that fans can follow and kids can be inspired by.  We welcome all viewpoints, and encourage thoughtful solutions.

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