In the past several years we have seen event organizers in several cities expand their portfolio of races in what can be seen as an ad hoc movement to bolster the sport’s shrinking profile on their city’s sporting landscape. Even running’s national governing body, USATF, entered the arena with the scheduling of their first ever wholly-owned road race property, the .US National Road Racing Championships November 17 in Alexandria, Virginia.
That grassroots movement was offset and temporarily outshone this past Labor Day weekend when San Diego-based Competitor Group, Inc., owners of the mega Rock `n` Roll Series of marathons and half-marathons, quietly — and controversially — shifted much of its near $1 million elite athlete program to further focus on its participation model. Today, catalyzed by the CGI decision, Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. CEO Patrice Matamoros announced an expansion of Pittsburgh’s elite athlete support for 2014 with the launch of The American Development Program.
This is the second increase in Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. elite athlete portfolio in the last two months. In the immediate wake of CGI’s withdrawal, Matamoros announced the inclusion of a small prize purse, $10,500, for the November 3rd inaugural EQP Pittsurgh 10 Miler.
“Through our events and support we want Pittsburgh to become the place for young American runners to launch their professional careers,” said Matamoros through today’s news release. “By racing here they will have the opportunity to gain the experience and confidence needed to take the next step in their careers. These athletes are vital to keeping alive the American running spirit and to keep the USA a major force in professional running for years to come.”
The American Development Program will offer prize money and travel assistance throughout the organization’s year-long calendar of events. In its first year, the program will add $40,500 in American prize money incentives for the 2014 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon.
“We are committed to cultivating an environment that encourages runners to become champions in the City of Champions, and the inaugural EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler on Nov. 3 will showcase some of that talent,” said Matamoros.
Currently, the organization’s events, which also includes the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, offer a cumulative prize purse of more than $160,000. As the organization grows, Matamoros said, Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. intends to expand the program. Details can be found at PittsburghMarathon.com/ADP.
E PLURIBUS ANYONE?
On his most recent HBO Real Sports program, Bryant Gumbel concluded the show with an editorial discussing the link between concussions and long-term brain damage caused by the playing of tackle football.
“Given the game’s current popularity,” Gumbel said, “the prospects that it would lose its preeminent place in culture may seem a long ways off. But it wasn’t that long ago that the sports dominating the headlines were boxing, horse racing, and track and field.”
That is the status of foot racing in the minds of mainstream America. So while we applaud Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. and other event organizers for their expansions — and challenge CGI to use its marketing savvy, influence and weight to re-enter the racing game at a level appropriate to its size — what we have yet to see are event organizers come together across geographic lines to link their events into some sort of comprehensible, scalable unit. With the sport locked into a Gordian Knot of local interests, it will be the person(s) who can unravel that tangle who will bring the sport back to a semblance of its former standing.