I delivered the keynote address at last week’s first Athletics Canada National Race Directors Summit in Toronto before an attentive audience of event directors, federation officials, suppliers and media. In my talk, billed as Innovations in Road Running, I urged a closer working relationship between events, athletes, and the governing body in an effort to rebuild the Canadian racing brand, which, like the USA’s took a nosedive in the 1990s.
I recalled that it was the birth of Running USA in March 1999 that the U.S. began to turnaround its distance running fortunes. Created “to improve the status of road racing in the United States through collective marketing and promotions, services to runners and events and the development of American world class stars,” Running USA’s early efforts led to the development of Team USA California in Mammoth Lakes which, in turn, helped kickstart American performance we still see in evidence today — though Running USA has become less focused on the sport aspect than when it first began.
The summit in Toronto was the first such gathering since Athletics Canada named John Lofranco Coordinator of Road Running just over six months ago. That it was the governing body itself which called the Race Directors Summit was a step forward from the American model where the lead was taken by the industry support group.
Among the attendees and presenters at the Canadian summit was Windsor, Ontario’s Chris Uszynski, founder and president of RunningFlat, an event promotion company which stages nine well-crafted boutique events in and around Windsor in Essex County just north of Detroit. A very creative fellow, Chris very forthrightly admitted that Running Flat’s focus isn’t on racing, rather is intent on “providing a great Event experience for our family of participants, while raising money for great causes.”
Chris and I sparred a little at the summit during a session during which he remarked that he was “awards averse”, while referring to Running Flat’s goal as “getting people off the couch and into the sport”. I suggested that in staging events like Color Runs and other events that don’t award prizes for performance at all, that he was introducing people to the activity of running, but not to the sport. It may be a subtle distinction, but that split between fun running and competitive racing is what has defined the last decade in running, leading to, I believe, a zero-sum game whereby the growth of running as an activity has mirrored the lessening of interest in racing.
With that as a backdrop, I joined Chris on his weekly Running Flat Radio Show this past Tuesday. My segment begins at 24:45.
Running Flat Radio can be heard every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. on AM 800 cklw in Windsor. Many thanks to Chris for having me on his show.