Tag: Road Race Management

CUTTING THE GORDIAN KNOT

Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety

With the end of the Cold War reawakening centuries old ethnic animus, and modernity exerting economic pressure on limited resources, the reordering of the world continues along a rancorous course as globalization comes into opposition against national political interests.

Whether we see it expressed in separatist referenda in Catalonia, Venice and Scotland, or via the ongoing crisis in Crimea, nationalist movements are on the rise as peoples affiliated culturally and linguistically seek independence from the larger nations that contain them politically.

So, too, has reordering involved the realm of sport. The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 broke up the old Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) while providing national governing bodies for each Olympic sport individually.  In that restructuring, track and field, race walking and long distance running were lumped together under the same umbrella called The Athletics Congress (TAC), today known as USA Track & Field (USATF).

But just as nations undergo constant shifts in populations and affiliations, so has the relative scope of USATF’s component parts undergone fundamental change in the last three-plus decades.  Over that time road racing’s mature numbers have grown to dwarf those of track and race walking, such that road racing has become to track & field what black South Africa had traditionally been to white South Africa during the days of apartheid, a population majority holding a minority political base.

Days of yore
Days of yore

Part of this imbalance stems from the fact that road running was in its infancy when the AAU was broken up.  But today, over 30 million Americans are self-professed runners, 15.5 million of whom actively participate in road racing, more than a half-million in marathons alone. Yet, as of December 2013, USATF had a membership of 115,000, 67% of which came from its youth division.  What’s more, marathons in Boston, New York, and Columbus, Ohio, which once required USATF membership to gain entry,  have long since done away with that requirement, seeing no reciprocal benefit for the necessity. Thus, the questions which culminated in South Africa’s first free elections in 1993 that brought Nelson Mandela to the presidency have, over the years, found their way into the circles of road racing, to wit: should road racing remain under the umbrella of USATF in its minority position, or should it attempt to strike out on its own to form an autonomous union with members of its own ranks, and in so doing allow USATF the freedom to better serve its more historically aligned constituencies? (more…)

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L.A. MARATHON CEO STILL AWAITING OLYMPIC TRIALS DECISION

Asics L.A. Marathon CEO Tracey Russell
Asics L.A. Marathon CEO Tracey Russell

     ASICS Los Angeles Marathon CEO Tracey Russell is still settling into her new position out west, having moved from her leadership of the Atlanta Track Club last June to take the reins at L.A.’s premier endurance event.  But as often happens on the roads of L.A., Ms. Russell has found herself nudging from one lane of responsibility to the next as the rush hour of marathon season begins to take hold.

So even as the Cleveland, Ohio native tries to figure out which of her things she had shipped out from Atlanta will work in the home she just purchased in L.A., she and her staff continue gearing up for the 29th running of the marathon on March 9th while anxiously awaiting the final decision by USATF whether L.A. or Houston will host the U. S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016.

“I had to unplug from work for about 24-hours,” she laughed during a phone call from her office near downtown L.A.  “All my stuff was coming from Atlanta in boxes, and it was a little crazy. But I’m back at work now, and registration for the marathon is tracking well ahead of last year, so we will have a sell-out.  We are working on our pro field now and the Olympic Trials.  We also hired a new brand strategy VP, and he and Nick (Curl, race director) are working on TV.”

While previous rights owners of the L.A. Marathon were content with staging a national-quality event in their world-class city, current rights owner Frank McCourt, and the city itself, has an eye cast toward a larger target.  (more…)