After Meb Keflezighi won the 2009 New York City Marathon – the first American win in 27 years – it was frustrating to many of Meb’s fans that they couldn’t buy a replica of the USA singlet Meb pointed to so proudly in the final strides of his historic win.
In fact, the shoe companies that sponsor professional runners have never made their elite athlete kits available to running fans, only to the athletes themselves. It is but one of many anomalies running has carried forward from its amateur past. It’s the same philosophy which sees track meets being organized specifically for the participants and decidedly not for the paying fans, which is why you might confusingly see six out of nine 100 meter sprinters wearing the exact same outfit in the starting blocks at Diamond League meets.
Imagine if every horse in the Kentucky Derby wore the same colors because each of the horses was under contract to the same horseshoe company. Consider if NBA and NFL fans weren’t allowed to buy replica jerseys of their favorite athletes. Not only would it lessen fan involvement and league promotion, but it would significantly lessen revenues for both the athletes and the rights holders.
Exactly because of this commercial malady, today former specialty running store owner, event director and Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Ben Rosario and his wife Jen announced the launch of RunFanShop.com, a site geared toward the running fan.
“Jen and I have long been frustrated that fans of running have never been able to show their support in the same way that fans of all other sports can,” Rosario said in his press release. “Rather than sit around and complain we wanted to do something about it.”
Because the issue of rights to current uniforms remains to be addressed — “That’s one of our next steps for sure,” Ben told me — RunFanShop.com’s shirts and posters are original designs, though they feature athletes with large followings.
Their “Blue Collar Runner” T-shirt ties in to retired 2008 Olympic marathoner Brian Sell who reached cult-like status after his rise to Olympian heights from rather modest beginnings while running for the Hanson-Brooks Distance Project. Their “2012 World Tour Poster” features five-time U.S. 800 meter champion Nick Symmonds and highlights all of his races from a season that culminated in a fifth place finish at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
RunFanShop.com will also feature books and DVDs that include long-time fan favorites like Once A Runner, Running with the Buffaloes, Fire on the Track and many more. In addition to the actual shopping portion of the site, Rosario promises an abundance of content including blogs, pictures, videos and even a weekly online radio show. (Why didn’t I think of that?)
“The show will sort of be like the LetsRun.com message boards come to life,” Rosario said. “I’ll host and bring on athletes, coaches and industry insiders as guests but we’ll also take calls from listeners which I think will be a lot of fun.”
The final piece of the puzzle will be Team RunFan, an elite development team coached by Rosario. The founding members of the team include 1:03 half marathoner Matt Llano, Arkansas All-American and SEC cross country champion Eric Fernandez and 2:13 marathoner Jordan Chipangama.
From 2006 to 2012 Rosario co-owned Big River Running Company in his hometown of St. Louis. He also was meet director of the 2012 and 2013 USATF Cross Country Championships, also in St. Louis and co-founded the annual Big River Festival of Miles. Today he lives with wife Jen in Flagstaff, Arizona.
To learn more visit www.runfanshop.com.