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The Oldest Continuous Road Race In The World, YMCA Buffalo Turkey Trot 8-K, Will Be Held For A Record 125th Straight Year This Year

Each year on Thanksgiving Day more Americans participate in running races than on any other day.  According to the running industry trade group Running USA, about 1.2 million Americans ran in a “turkey trot” in 2018, up 71% from 2011 when the organization first began tracking participation.  It’s the perfect activity before families sit down to their Thanksgiving feasts and hours of watching football.

“As the popularity of turkey trots grows, we increasingly see them as healthy activities for the whole family on one of the biggest holidays of the year,” observed outgoing Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger through a statement in 2019.  “The vast majority of participants are running with partners, children, other family members, friends, and even multi-generational branches of their family tree.”

But the pandemic will put a huge dent in race participation on Thanksgiving this year which falls on Thursday, November 26.  Out of a representative sample of 39 well-established turkey trots tracked by Race Results Weekly, only six plan to stage in-person races this year.  The rest will be held virtually, or have simply been cancelled.

Among those six, are two of the nation’s oldest road races, the YMCA Turkey Trot 8-K in Buffalo, N.Y., founded in 1896, and the Run for the Diamonds (9 miler) in Berwick, Pa., founded in 1908.  Remarkably, the Buffalo race has been held for 124 consecutive years without being cancelled, making it the longest running public road race in the world.  It was actually founded one year before the Boston Marathon.

So when the pandemic struck last March, race director Rick Streeter quickly began thinking about how to put on the 125th edition as a safe, in-person race.  Streeter, a vice-president at Leone Timing, the event management and timing company which oversees the operation of the race, felt strongly that the streak should continue.  He and Leone Timing’s president Pat Leone started to look for a way forward.

“We knew that we needed to do something live,” Streeter told Race Results Weekly in a telephone interview earlier this week.  “Obviously, with some of our success with virtual racing in the spring, we were going to have that component, regardless.  But to preserve the record, the streak, we needed to do something live.”

Working with leaders at the YMCA Buffalo Niagara Association, the not-for-profit organization which owns the event, Streeter and Leone proposed a hybrid race with most athletes running virtually, but 125 –one for each year of the race‘s tenure– could run in-person.  YMCA officials, with support from Erie County and the City of Buffalo, liked the idea but how would the 125 be selected?  The race is extremely popular, and had almost 12,000 finishers last year.  After a lot of discussion, they decided to select the runners randomly out of the pool of virtual entrants.

The traditional point-to-point course allowed the event to accommodate a large group of runners, but it also meant that runners had to be transported to the start.  Streeter wanted to eliminate that requirement.

“We had to create a new course because we didn’t want it to be point-to-point,” Streeter explained.  “We wanted to eliminate the transportation factor, so everybody is in charge of their own transportation.  It’s not a common start/finish (line), but the start and finish are very close.”

Of course, many runners may show up on the traditional course to do their virtual races on Thanksgiving, something that Streeter and Leone have anticipated.  They made sure that the special 2020 course isn’t in the same location as the traditional course.

“I think the idea is getting the in-person race onto a different course and getting them out of the way of what may happen unofficially on the regular course,” said Leone.

“Actually, it was the one thing we talked about right from March when everything locked down,” Leone said.  “I said, if I’ve got to gather five or ten people we’ve got to have the 125th… if we have to run them one at a time down the sidewalk into downtown to the convention center.”  He continued: “We felt like we are stewards of it, something that survived world wars, all the world wars, and whatever else.”

Leone and Streeter noted that the race came close to cancellation a few times, including in both 2000 and 2014 when early snowstorms hit the city hard just before Thanksgiving.  The city, and race officials and volunteers, were up to the challenge.  In 2000 the race recorded 3452 finishers, and in 2000 there were 12,280.

(11/05/2020) Views: 79 ⚡AMP
by David Monti
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YMCA Buffalo Niagara Turkey Trot 8K

YMCA Buffalo Niagara Turkey Trot 8K

The enthusiasm, energy and incredible holiday spirit that radiated down Delaware Avenue tells us that our local Thanksgiving Day run is so much more than just an 8k road race. It is an incredible tribute to all that makes Western New York great – Family, Friendship, and Benevolence. Together with the Y, you are helping to connect those less fortunate...

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There are many races that will not survive the Pandemic

In this time of coronavirus when so much of normal life has been disrupted and locked down, running has once again been touted as a healthy habit to engage in, not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically, as well. And yet the great irony is that coming together by the hundreds and thousands to run in road races is considered a dangerous catalyst to the spread of the virus. And so as race cancellations increase and the calendar ahead is denuded of our annual mass gatherings, Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger acknowledged the industry is “suffering tremendously” and that, since it has no league or players association, it is sometimes overlooked. 

While there has always been something of a prideful outsider’s mentality to the sport of running, being overlooked as an industry is an altogether different matter. So in April 2020, over 500 endurance event operators across the country — including Ironman and Running USA — banded together to launch the Endurance Sports Coalition, which sought longer-term funding for event operators. 

“Without specifically targeted help from the federal government,” said the Endurance Sports Coalition, “the endurance sports may not survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Many events with long and proud histories do not have the resources to weather this storm and will not be able to ramp up again next year.”

That’s the sound of strident individuality falling in the face of the existential threat brought about by the Coronavirus.

Long the backbone of the running industry, the individual event summoning thousands of individual runners is now finding that flinty independence has a cutting edge.  It has been the sports’ resolute refusal to aggregate its numbers to form anything beyond the individual race, that now threatens the viability of many long-standing events.

This lack of a wider view was first made apparent when Nike pulled out sponsorship of the Cascade Run-Off in Portland, Oregon, a classic 15K event that hosted the first open prize money road race on the fledgling Association of Road Race Athletes (ARRA) tour in 1981. When Nike pulled out a few years later and local organizers couldn’t find an immediate sponsor replacement, rather than seeing financial support coming from the broader road race community to bridge the gap until a new sponsor could be found, the event just died, taking with it a seminal milestone in the history of the sport. There was no sense that ‘we are all in this together”; it was every event for itself.

True, there have been some examples of multiple-race series over the years, most notably the 154-event Diet Pepsi 10K Series in the late Seventies, early Eighties.  And Dr. Scholl’s staged their Pro Comfort 10K series for a few years in the mid-`80s.  Elite Racing, Inc. founded the Rock ‘n’ Roll-themed series of marathons and half-marathons in 1998 and literally changed the game.  Competitor Group and now Ironman continued to develop the participation aspect of the RnR Series while largely eliminating the pro racing division. On that front, the Abbott World Marathon Majors branded six of the world’s preeminent marathons.  But in recent cycles, there has been a shift in public recognition from tour champions to Six-Star Finishers – due in part to the negative publicity of drug cheaters taking the series titles before having to give them up upon being caught.

But throughout its first four-plus decades, the running industry has primarily developed via an individual event, individual runner orientation. And that orientation was sufficient to grow the events even if it didn’t do the same for the sport at the leading edge of the events.  Yes, the elite sporting element has maintained a presence, but largely it has been managed more than promoted.

There are 44 million runners? 35,000 races? 17.6 million racers?  These are striking numbers reflecting a robust industry (though the number of racers has slowly been eroding for the last half-decade). But when every one of those numbers is constituted as a universe of one, they don’t add up to anything more than an academic data point. And now in the face of Coronavirus, road running’s mass gatherings are seen as Petri dishes of viral concern. But because the industry never successfully formed a league or developed a players association to create a larger force, it finds itself particularly vulnerable, exposing the weakness of the sport’s atomic event sensibility to help bridge a time of crisis. 

Runners were once ridiculed (“It’s spring and the saps are running” was a Boston favorite). Then the sport found broad acceptance through the original Running Boom. Still, I am reminded of those early years when you would go to meetings at City Halls looking for street closing permits and the like. And often race directors would tell city officials, “we will start very early and stay off main roads. Nobody will know we are there.” And I always wondered, is “nobody knows we’re there” a proper goal? Former Houston Marathon director David Hannah had a famous line about that mentality, “A long time ago running made an unconscious decision to be a closely held secret.”

It makes you wonder whether events, athletes, and agents are paying close attention to the current crisis. Have they figured it out yet?  Fish have. Birds have. Wildebeests have. Ants have.  And finally, an endurance events coalition has, too. There are safety and power and insurance in numbers. If this Coronavirus crisis doesn’t set this sport up for some sort of unified effort going forward, you just wonder whatever will?

(05/31/2020) Views: 186 ⚡AMP
by Toni Reavis
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What is going to happen to road racing as we know it? Bob Anderson thoughts on the situation. Could it be the end of big races?

The COVID-19 virus is deadly.  Already (as of May 17) at least 317,000 people worldwide have died from the virus.  This number is still growing by thousands each day.  By the end of this week most likely over 100,000 people in the US will have died from the Coronvirus (COVID-19).

Some people think this number has been inflated.  Others think it is low.  It is hard to really know the true facts.  In any case thousands of people have died from this new virus.  That's a fact.  

Some still feel this virus is no worse than the common flu.  Many of these ill informed people might be some of the ones who are continuing to spread the Cornavirus.  Many of these people don't wear face masks while in public nor practice social distancing.  These types of people could easily be those that end up infecting others.  And kill racing too.  More on this later.  

Doctors are saying this virus is much more contagious than the common flu and the death rate particularly for people aged 60 plus is high.  Much higher than the common flu.

This information is talked about daily in the news and there is no need to further exam that here.  The focus here is road racing and what impact this crisis is going to have on the sport.  

The My Best Runs (MBR) website only features and follow the best, most interesting and unique races in the world.  The site is currently following 837 races from all over the world.  

One thing the website does is list the leaderboard results from the races featured. The top four men and women and then age-group winners in ten year age-groups starting at age 40 are posted.  Stats are complied and compared among the races.  Nearly 90,000 unique people visited the site in February to look for races, follow races or read Running News Daily.  The traffic had doubled in a year.  That's over one million annually.  The growth of the site illustrates how road racing around the world was growing.  

Everything was set for a banner year.  The Boston Marathon had lined up another amazing field for their annual races that has been held every year since 1896 on Patriots Day.  The London marathon had confirmed that the world's top two marathoners would battle it out on the streets of London.  Maybe the first sub two hour marathon in a real race was going to happen? However both races were postponed and they hope to have races this fall.  Some feel that is not going to happen. 

It was in early February when people began talking about the Cornavirus.  A virus started in China.  But mostly people did not seem overly concerned. 

The month before (January 26) the Ujena Fit Club (UFC) Training Camp in Thika Kenya was opened.  The camp was not totally finished but the core group of runners had been selected, a time trial was staged and a traditional goat feed blessed the opening. A couple hundred people showed up for the affair.

A third floor of the club would be added in the following months to house guests interested in training with elite Kenyan runners.  The official grand opening was set for the end of May with a Double Road Race 15k race planned the same weekend.  Sponsored were being lined up for a world record attempt.    

The top runner in the club and part owner is Joel Maina Mwangi.  For the last couple of years prior he would travel to Italy in the spring and bring back enough prize money to take care of him and his family for the rest of the year.  

2020 was going to be his best year yet.  Joel was in top form being trained at his UFC Training Camp by coach Dennis.  His teammates pushed Joel in three-a-day workouts to higher limits.  

Joel left for Italy in early February right after the UFC Training Camp US partners Bob and Catherine Anderson had left after attending the opening.

Joel's first race was in Verona, Italy Feb 16.  He won that race and clocked 1:00:40 for the half marathon, a personal best.  His plan was to race each weekend after that and then run the Rome Half Marathon set for March 8.  This point to point course is fast.  Galen Rupp had won there a couple of years back breaking an hour in the process.  Joel's plan was to win, break an hour for the first time and bring home the big prize purse.

This didn't happen as Italy started closing down their country to battle COVID-19.  It was going out of control.  Joel luckily left Italy March 7th for his home in Thika, Kenya while he could still travel. But not with the over $20k(US) he was planning on bringing back home with him.

The world was shutting down.  Whole countries were locking down.  The last race featured by MBR to take place was the LA Marathon March 8 along with several others held that same weekend.  There has not been a significant race held any place in the world since March 8.  California ordered everyone to Shelter in Place starting March 17.  Other states and countries followed.  

Every race scheduled for April or May and featured on the MBR website were either canceled or postponed.  Most races also in June and July have been canceled or postponed as well.  The Tokyo Olympics were postponed for a year.  The Berlin marathon in September was canceled (but they are trying to workout a new date), Western States 100, the Camrades Marathon, the Dipsea, and so many other well established races were cancelled.   

Pippa Stevens a CNBC writer posted, "As running has grown in popularity, local clubs have popped up around the country, and there are now roughly 35,000 races each year in the U.S. alone, data from industry trade group Running USA shows.

"More than 44 million people in the U.S. identify as a runner, and 17.6 million people crossed the finish line in U.S. races in 2019.

"With all races cancelled for the time being, billions of dollars are at stake. The biggest marathons – from Boston to Chicago to London to Tokyo – inject hundreds of millions of dollars into local economies. The most recent analysis of the TCS New York City Marathon, for example, found that the race’s economic impact topped $400 million."

A lot is at stake.  But race directors need to know that even if cities allow them to hold their races, not everyone will automatically be there on the starting line.  

Dan Anderson wrote, "I am having a major motivational problem with my running!  For the first time in my running career (almost 55 years) I have no races to train for.  I really miss them.  But I will not run in a race until a vaccine is available.  Being 68 years old with several preexisting risk factors it is too dangerous!  Hopefully within a year a vaccine will be available.  Until then I will push myself to get out and run."

Racing is addictive and so many people around the world love it. Once things are figured out and it is safe again many will be there on the starting line.                                                                                       

Sam Tada who lives in Japan wrote, "Racing helped me so many times in my life and I miss it.  

"Racing gives us opportunity of challenge, growth, and communication.  It makes us happy and healthy mentally and physically.  I love racing and miss it. 

"We are facing difficult time right now but once this health concern is gone I think we will be able to enjoy racing more since we understand how racing is important for us.   

"I am looking forward to racing again and I am trying to do my best effort to stop the spread of this virus."

There are a lot of things that will need to be addressed.  Here are some ideas I have.  Maybe at least for awhile or forever all runners will need to show up wearing a Face Mask.

Then they walk into a screening booth and have their temperature checked.  If they pass, they walk into another booth were they are sprayed with a solution (totally safe) that would kill any viruses they may have on their clothing, shoes or body.  At this point they are still wearing their face mask.  And they continue to wear their face mask until about a quarter mile out or until there is spacing between them and others.  Once they finish they put back on their Face Mask until they are back in their car.

Of course everyone would have to sign a Waiver saying that if they contract COVID-19 at the race and if they die later their family could not sue the race or city.  No idea how porta potties, water stops or handing out medals at the end could work out other than eliminating them. 

I see two problems with these ideas. Remember those people that are already not following the rules?  Do you think they would show up at a race wearing a Face Mask?  And we also know that signing a waiver does not restrict a family from sueing everyone if a member of their family dies from COVID-19 which they determined they got at a race.  Even before this crisis a husband ran a half marathon in San Francisco and died at the finish line.  He had signed a waiver but his wife sued everyone and won lots of money.  The race Director got out of the business (sadly) yet he did nothing wrong from the inside information I know.  

There is not a clear answer about the future of road racing.  No matter how careful race directors, cities and charities (because they are big losers too)  work together it would only take a few jerks to ruin it all.

So what race is going to be the first one back?  Any day now the Old Dominion 100 Miler set for June 8th will be making a decision.  They posted on their website, "The Old Dominion Run is still working all options in an attempt to have the run this year.

"We are working with numerous authorities in our area to assist in providing a good and safe race day experience for everyone involved. The governor of Virginia has gone to phase one in our area and our authorities are reviewing our plan vs the restrictions. 

"Currently, part of our proposal has had to include a limit on our field to 50% for any hopes for us to proceed. We currently have 55 entrants and will not immediately be taking more from the wait list.

"Responses from the authorities will be a major part of our decision on 17 May. If the race proceeds, entries will not be more than 55. The waitlist will remain active," posted by Ray, Wynne and Race Management.

On June 20th the Shelter Island 10k (first photo) is scheduled to take place in Shelter Island New York.  It is a big race and there are always fast winning times.  We have contacted the race director and have not gotten a comment from them.  There is no mention on their website about COVID-19.  We are assuming they are trying to make it happen but what is their plan?  

A couple of other races in late June are also trying to figure something out.  Like the Halifax Marathon (second photo) has not torn in the towel just yet but are closely monitoring the situation as noted on their website.  

Another one of the 837 races being followed by MBR wrote, "Our race was cancelled for this year, fingered crossed we will be back in 2021, april 17th.

"Our race of 2500 might look a bit different in 2021, 10 wave starts of 250 each? Each 10, 15 to 20 minutes apart? Lots of questions like what will aid stations look like and function? Maybe results may go to chip times, or no awards at all? Things will be different.

"The big question now is how we will all deal with the city, county and state mandates and permits. In the past, permits were a pretty easy process, no mass gatherings limitations.

"Locally I believe we will have some small events, mostly if not all on our trail system which limits events to 200 participants. A couple are still moving forward with fall dates, hopefully they will happen. Currently we have a limit for runs set by our city, set at 250 runners with wave starts, with really no other details. In the past road events have had much bigger fields. Going forward if the social distancing stays part of the rules it will be very hard to stage a very large running event.

"Events may look like some ultrarunning events, with very little or no finish line parties, just finish, quick drink and maybe food and head home.

"Runners and organizations will adapt to the rules and events will happen," wrote Brian at Race to Robie Creek.

Hopefully the game changer is going to be that a vaccine is created and COVID-19 is wiped off the face of the earth.  Just as long as everyone gets vaccinated and don't continue to think that COVID-19 is no worse than the common flu. This could solve most everything as long as cities who issue permits think it is enough.  

It sure would be nice to get back to things as they were.  Or at least close to it.  But many of us will continue to wash our hands more often, wear a face masks at times and not go out if they are not feeling well.  Road racing is just too important to so many people. 

(05/17/2020) Views: 872 ⚡AMP
by Bob Anderson
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Old Dominion One Day 100 Mile

Old Dominion One Day 100 Mile

(May 19, 2020) Thank you all so much for your patience as we were waiting to hear back on all of our approvals today. However, we are very sad to say the race is cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19. We did not receive all of the approvals needed from our area authorities. See you in 2021. The Old Dominion...

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Running on empty: Coronavirus has changed the course for races big and small

The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the sports landscape. Leagues from the NBA all the way down to Little League Baseball have paused or canceled seasons.

In response to various stay-at-home orders that vary from state to state, people have been encouraged to exercise -- safely and while socially distancing. To run, walk and bike. Maybe, now with the idea, to one day compete in a 5K or a 10K race, maybe even a marathon.

When life resumes, whenever that is, those opportunities will be different and, in the case of some road races, not even there.

The racing organizations, big and small, that stage those events are having to grapple with postponements and cancellations to a point where they may not be able to ever come back at full strength.

Many of the world's largest marathons have already been impacted by the pandemic -- the Boston Marathon was postponed until September, the London Marathon until October and the Berlin Marathon, which had been scheduled for Oct. 24, has already been canceled.

Events that lead to mass gatherings, such as sports and concerts, are expected to be among the last to return even as the U.S. and the world look to reopen various businesses.

In the world of running, it is the smaller races -- from 5Ks and 10Ks to half marathons and marathons, many operated by local event organizers -- that are under financial stress.

In 2019, Running USA, an industry trade group, tracked more than 21,000 road races, which collected roughly $267 million in fees from more than 17.6 million registered runners.

Christine Bowen, vice president of programming partnerships and operations at Running USA, told ESPN.com that new estimates as of mid-March showed roughly 7,500 road races have been canceled so far into 2020, and thousands have been canceled since. That's more than 1.2 million participants who are left in limbo, she said -- and with more cancellations likely to come. In addition, race registrations nationwide are showing a 95 percent decline.

There's also the loss of raising money for charity, Bowen noted. Roughly 79 percent of road races are associated with at least one charity partner.

Fewer people signing up for races is one thing. The industry is also dealing with runners who are asking for their money back. While the average cost to enter a race is $70 to $79 per entry, many smaller events don't offer refunds, as those registration revenues are spent in advance for race security, staff, shirts, bibs, medals, water, snacks and other logistics -- sunk costs even if the races are not held.

"At the moment, I am not looking to register for any further road races as we have no idea what will happen," Samantha Music, a tax assistant who lives in Connecticut, said. "It is rather discouraging to continue to train even though the races are not happening."

Music had signed up to run seven races so far this year, with collective registration costs of more than $1,200. So far, six of the seven have been officially canceled, and a majority of the races, she said, are non-refundable.

However, two of the races did offer deferment for a non-complimentary guaranteed race entry for 2021 or a full refund and no-entry option for 2021. This means, if the race is lottery-based, she would need to reapply sometime next year.

"I am absolutely feeling stressed, as well as depressed about all the cancellations and losing money on the races that are being deferred to next year," Music said. "I understand that the race organizers have to pay for everything they ordered, but it doesn't suck any less to have to pay for a race again."

"I am absolutely feeling stressed, as well as depressed about all the cancelations and losing money on the races that are being deferred to next year."

Samanta Music, runner from Connecticut

The tune is a little different for Matt Becker, who is an applied mathematician at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. Becker, who is new to the road race scene, and his wife had signed up for six races between the two of them so far in 2020. Five of them have been canceled or postponed, and of those five, four offered deferred payments for next year, or whenever the rescheduled race will take place.

"I think, on the whole, the race organizers are doing their best to accommodate difficult circumstances," Becker said. "Once it is safe to do so, I don't think I'll have any different approach to signing up for races in the future."

As part of its guidance to race directors, Running USA issued this statement:

"Negative comments about refunds, chargebacks and greed are swirling. The running industry especially is not a faceless group. ... it may be helpful to share with participants that many expenses are incurred months ahead of the event and the option of refunds really is not straightforward or always possible. Remind runners of your commitment to the community."

But will there be races for the community in the future?

Bowen said that though the average running organization employs eight full-time employees, there are contractors working with event management companies who also rely on the events as their main source of income.

According to the Endurance Sports Coalition, hundreds of thousands jobs are in jeopardy in that space. The coalition is made up of more than 475 endurance sports groups seeking relief from congress. The endurance sports industry -- which also includes events such as Tough Mudder and Ironman triathlons -- is a $3 billion industry that provides more than 500,000 jobs.

The coalition includes bigger races, like the Boston Marathon and Rock 'n' Roll marathon series, that will always have people clamoring to run them. It's the medium to smaller-sized races, and the companies that put them on, that are facing the direst of straits.

J.T. Service is the co-founder and CEO of Soul Focus Sports, an event management company in the San Francisco Bay Area that helps to put on a handful of road races.

Run Local Bay Area is a client of Soul Focus Sports, which puts on races including the San Jose Shamrock Run, the Silicon Valley Half Marathon and the Across the Bay 12K. The Silicon Valley Half Marathon -- which did not occur as planned on April 5 -- would have usually attracted between 3,000 and 5,000 runners.

"I almost want people to kind of think about us as local businesses," J.T. Service said. "There's this huge push of support your local business or support your corner pizza shop where you normally would get pizza. I think there needs to be this element of seeing the race, your local fundraising charity event, as that local business that needs just as much support now -- maybe more now than ever -- for the long term good of the community, so they can come back and open their doors and open their starting lines to runners when this thing is cleared up."

Through June, six races have been canceled under the Soul Focus Sports umbrella in the Bay Area. Service said they have lost "a few hundred thousand [dollars] in revenue" and that affects roughly a dozen event staffers.

To make up for lost races, runners have been encouraged to participate in virtual runs instead -- a way to both encourage running and return some value.

For many of these virtual events, runners can run the scheduled "race" distance when they want, where they want -- from a local trail to a treadmill -- and can then log their time results on the event's website to compare against others, and have their medals, race shirts and other "swag" shipped to them.

In addition to its Walt Disney World Marathon and other events, runDisney has been holding virtual races for five years. The Rock 'n' Roll marathon series and IRONMAN triathlon series -- both part of the Wanda Sports Group -- have begun offering competitive virtual events, and other race directors have taken creative approaches to keep runners active.

The Hartford Marathon Foundation, which organizes more than 30 annual races throughout New England, launched the "WeRunCT" virtual challenge to encourage people to collectively run the equivalent of every square mile of Connecticut (5,018 miles). Within three weeks, more than 1,250 participants ran the state of Connecticut 14 times over -- covering the square mileage of all of New England, approximately 71,500 miles.

"We understand how important it is for us to provide our running community with encouragement to keep active and maintain a healthy outlet to help manage stress during this unprecedented time," HMF CEO Beth Shluger said in a statement. "While we can't hold events and gather together, we're committed to providing ways for people to experience some of the enjoyment of racing through virtual events and challenges."

Bowen said there is a glass-half-full approach.

"I think that mental health area is really going to look more at [running]," she said. "I wouldn't be surprised if you start seeing companies sort of corporate wellness programs to say to their employees, 'Maybe sign up for a virtual race in the office because we're all working from home right now.' That's something to keep people engaged."

Virtual races can be positive, she said: "Right now, I will stay for sure, it's given companies an opportunity to be very creative in how they work with their runners and their sponsors."

Those virtual events could continue to be a source of revenue for race directors, and alternative social distancing options for runners. And Service, from Soul Focus Sports, sees another silver lining: Many people are taking up running while seeking exercise during the pandemic, and all those outside running every day could fall in love with the sport -- and could stick around for a while, too.

"So I see an opportunity for this industry, and that's from local specialty shoe shops to races -- but we have to be almost leaders, to the point of saying: Running is going to help bring this country back," Service said. "Why wouldn't be this our fuel or a thing that brings people back together?

"They're resilient people."

(05/16/2020) Views: 248 ⚡AMP
by ESPN
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Running industry walloped by COVID-19, and it may take years to recover

Races in the busiest season of the year have been canceled or postponed while retail sales plummet.

With more than a third of this year’s competitive road racing schedule canceled or postponed by the coronavirus, and running stores enduring massive drops in sales because of restrictions on retail businesses, America’s running industry is bracing for months or years of fallout.

The effects of COVID-19 on the sport may not be all bad, many in the running community believe, citing a running boom that followed the Great Recession in 2008. The only thing a runner really needs to run is a pair of running shoes.

“People turn to this sport in particular in times of economic downturns and crises,” said Rich Harshbarger, chief executive of Running USA, an industry trade group. “We saw this in the late 2000s. People gave up their country club memberships and returned to simpler sports like running. You saw a downturn in golf, you saw a downturn in skiing — things that are more expensive. Runners turned to the sport, or returned to the sport, to relieve stress. And, to get and remain healthy.”

But the number of road race registrations — more than 17.6 million in 2019, according to Running USA — is bound to decline significantly this year and maybe beyond. Meanwhile, many running stores are prohibited from having customers in their stores, as is the case with other “non-essential” retail stores, and that has hit them hard.

Sales have declined 80% at Runner’s Roost in Lakewood and 70% at In Motion Running in Boulder, according to owners of those stores. The Lakewood store cannot have customers inside but is finding other ways to fill shoe orders, and owner Sonya Estes senses an influx of newcomers to the sport because of COVID-19 — just as Running USA predicted.

“We can look at all the bad, or we can look at the good, and the good in this is that running has been touted as one of those things that is great for your mental and physical health,” Estes said. “To have the governor stand up there and say, ‘Get out and go for a hike,’ or, ‘Go for a run, just don’t do it in a large group,’ I think long-term it’s going to be amazing for the business. When you see gyms and rec centers close down, I’ve never seen so many people up on Green Mountain or at Bear Creek. People that wanted to work out are now embracing running. If they find that they really like this, I think long-term, for running, it’s actually a good thing.”

In Motion Running has remained open, in part because owner Mark Plaatjes practices physical therapy at In Motion Rehabilitation, a clinic attached to the rear of the store, and that stayed open. Only two retail customers are allowed in the store at a time, though, and store personnel disinfects after customers leave.

Like Estes, Plaatjes has seen newcomers. “It’s definitely nice to see new people coming in that we haven’t seen before,” Plaatjes said. “Once our regular customers come back, I’m sure that will translate into an increase in sales and participation in running.”

Both stores are offering non-contact curbside service and home deliveries. They and other running stores are offering virtual gait analysis to assist customers in choosing the right shoes, a process that normally is conducted on treadmills inside the stores. Customers submit videos of them running so trained staff can analyze them and recommend shoes constructed for their anatomical particulars.

The carnage in road racing could be significant, though. Running as a solitary fitness or mental healthy pursuit is one thing, but for many runners, the social aspect of the sport comes out in racing. Races are community celebrations of the running lifestyle. That part of the sport has been dealt a devastating blow, and officials fear it could take years to recover.

Spring is the busiest season of the year for racing, with 35% of America’s races scheduled in March, April and May. Most of those have been canceled or postponed until fall. Some of those events, and the companies that support them by providing timing and other event services, may never recover. The vast majority of the road race industry is comprised of small businesses with eight employees or less, according to Running USA’s Harshbarger.

“It absolutely can be a fatal blow, and unfortunately it will be for a lot of the industry,” Harshbarger said. “We were already seeing some event management companies have to close their doors. Their sole business is to go around their region or their city and help produce events. When those events cease to have revenue, their livelihood evaporates.”

The Bolder Boulder was able to reach quick agreement with the City of Boulder and the University of Colorado (where the race finishes) to postpone from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But the Cherry Creek Sneak, which was scheduled for April 26, is still waiting for the City of Denver to approve a new date it sought to reserve in September. So is the Colfax Marathon, which includes a half marathon, a 10-miler and marathon relay that were scheduled for May 17.

Colfax race director Andrea Dowdy said 14-15,000 medals for her races were scheduled to arrive last week, and there’s no guarantee those races will be held this year.

“We feel very comfortable that operationally we’re in a sound place, so that when the city says to us, ‘You can have an event this fall,’ or ‘We need all events to wait until the spring,’ we can work either way,” Dowdy said.

Harshbarger fears that races will “cannibalize” each other if they are rescheduled in the fall, which is already the second-busiest season with 31% of the nation’s races scheduled in September through November. The Bolder Boulder has already folded its Fortitude 10K, normally scheduled for Labor Day in Fort Collins, into the Boulder race. In effect, both races will be run concurrently in Boulder.

If the Cherry Creek Sneak and the Colfax event are added, September would become an extremely crowded race calendar in Denver. And that would come on top of non-running events already scheduled in the city or looking to reschedule then. Dowdy and Cherry Creek Sneak race director Pat Downing can only wait on word from the city’s Office of Special Events.

“They need to form a new process on how they’re going to allocate a very limited number of spaces into a space now that is overcrowded,” Downing said.

Another question that arises: What will races look like when they do resume?

“Who knows, resurgence or not, what social distancing guidelines are going to be?” Harshbarger said. “Let alone the emotional fog of, ‘Do I really want to get in a corral with 50 people? Do I want to get in a race with 10,000 people?’ We don’t know. When we come through this — and I don’t know when that is, a year? Maybe two years? — I do think the sport will be strong. I do think there will be demand to do this. I think there will be new guidelines and corral set-ups. But history shows us that runners are resilient.”

(05/03/2020) Views: 313 ⚡AMP
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Tracy Sundlun settles Lawsuit against the Rock N Roll Marathon Series he co-founded

Tracy Sundlun, the former track coach who helped create the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Series, has settled his breach-of-contract lawsuit against the company he co-founded.

The deal with Competitor Group Inc. was quietly reached recently in San Diego federal court, where the case was moved after being filed last January in San Diego Superior Court.

Sundlun, 67, sued CGI for $146,000 — the amount he says he was owed in a severance agreement after being let go by the international firm in July 2016.

The Santee resident known as “Mr. Marathon” had been senior vice president of Competitor Group, which has changed ownership of the years. CGI is now a part of Ironman-operator World Triathlon Corp., a unit of Chinese-based Wanda Sports Group.

On Tuesday, Sundlun lawyer David Greifinger said: “The case has settled and the terms are confidential. Neither Tracy nor I can make any comment.”

CGI and World Triathlon Corp. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lawyers for CGI said in court filings that Sundlun was denied his severance because he violated its terms. They said he disparaged the company in a Times of San Diego story that appeared in November 2016. Sundlun denies any disparagement.

CGI alleged that Sundlun slammed the company when he said “the elite-athlete budget has been cut again” and “I just know that … [the elite-athlete budget] just keeps getting cut.”

In the run-up to a possible trial before Judge Linda Lopez, CGI lawyers issued a subpoena to freelance writer Ken Stone, a Times of San Diego contributor represented pro bono by Dan Gilleon of San Diego.

Along with a request for documents, the CGI lawyers set a deposition date for Stone. (Only previously published documents were provided.) But with both parties agreeing not to call Stone as a witness, the deposition order was dropped.

On Dec. 11, the same day as the canceled deposition, the case was settled in Lopez’s court. 

Sundlun declined to comment on the case against his employer of nearly 20 years.

With Tim Murphy, Sundlun helped grow Elite Racing — organizer of the original Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon in San Diego and the Carlsbad 5000. (Elite essentially became the events arm of CGI in December 2007.)

In May 2017, Sundlun told Times of San Diegothat CGI owed him well over $160,000 and hadn’t been reimbursed for all his business expenses. He also said he was owed $2,000 monthly COBRA health insurance payments.

Among personal mementos yet to be returned, he said at the time, was private correspondence with his daughter and files related to his friendship with basketball great Wilt Chamberlain. (Sundlun coached Wilt’s Wonder Women, an outgrowth of the La Jolla Track Club.)

On May 12, 2017, Sundlun filed a complaint against CGI with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Greifinger said then that CGI was using the Times story as an excuse not to pay 38 weeks’ severance on his $200,000-a-year salary, plus other benefits.

“That doesn’t justify their not paying him,” he said. “(They) unilaterally backed out of the settlement agreement.”

Originally based in Mira Mesa, CGI moved to Sorrento Valley in March 2017.

But after being acquired in June 2017 by Ironman (owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin), CGI’s staff shrank from over 200 to about 20.

Former CGI president and CEO Josh Furlow — who let Sundlun go in 2016 — was himself fired in January. 

“Somebody had to be the fall guy” for corporate losses, said an industry veteran who didn’t want to be named.

On Dec. 12, Magistrate Judge Lopez ordered both sides to file a joint motion for dismissal of the case by Feb. 10, 2020.

Sundlun is a member of the Running USA Hall of Champions and the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame.A U.S. track team manager at the 2016 Rio Olympics, he continues to be active in the sport.

Next month, he’ll be a race director of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the 50-kilometer men’s race walk, again being staged in Santee.

(01/01/2020) Views: 463 ⚡AMP
by Times of San Diego
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10 Reasons to Run a Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving is the most popular running day of the year, according to Running USA. Last year more than 1.17 million people registered for a Turkey Trot around the Thanksgiving holiday. The tradition is believed to have started in 1896 in Buffalo, New York, with Y.M.C.A. Buffalo Niagara’s Turkey Trot —  today the 8K attracts more than 14,000 runners and calls itself the “oldest consecutively run footrace in North America.”

While running a few miles won’t do much to offset the 2,000+ calories you’re likely to consume on Thanksgiving, there are plenty of other reasons to lace up your sneakers and get moving with family and friends.

1.- It’s one of those rare unicorn events that everyone can actually do together, whether you run, walk or trot. Win points with your Ironman father-in-law. Or just use it an excuse to be better at something (anything!) than your cousin.

2.- On the other hand, if you get stressed by family dynamics, a Turkey Trot can also be a great excuse to escape. (Self-care, hello?!?!?)

3.- Most races have shorter distances for kids, everything from a 1-miler to a 500-meter dash — often with mini-medals, chocolate lollipops or hot apple cider at the finish.

4.- You can probably get out of some holiday-related jobs/duties/tasks — peeling potatoes, putting the leaf in the dining room table, getting folding chairs from your uncle’s garage — because you will be at the race (and going to/coming from/showering after!).

5.- If you’re traveling to that same relative’s house for the fifth year in a row, consider finding a race in a nearby town (Active.com has a comprehensive list); a new environment can keep things interesting.

6.- Make fun of the (probably ugly) shirt that will go straight into your pajama drawer because it features the face of a massive cartoon turkey or the name of a local pub. (Why are Turkey Trot race shirts so universally bad?) 

7.- Feel morally superior to everyone else when you post your Turkey Trot pic on social media or feel less lazy (and avoid FOMO) when everyone else posts theirs.

8.- Enjoy an extra helping of stuffing.

9.- If you do post a pic, use #WillTrotForBeer and tag @MichelobULTRA — until December 1 the brand will donate $1 per pic (up to $10,000) to AmpleHarvest.org, a non-profit aiming to end food waste and hunger.

10.- Appease guilt on Friday when you don’t work out because you’re still full/busy shopping/watching Christmas movies/eating another slice of pie.

(11/26/2019) Views: 688 ⚡AMP
by Stephanie Emma Pfeffer
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YMCA Buffalo Niagara Turkey Trot 8K

YMCA Buffalo Niagara Turkey Trot 8K

The enthusiasm, energy and incredible holiday spirit that radiated down Delaware Avenue tells us that our local Thanksgiving Day run is so much more than just an 8k road race. It is an incredible tribute to all that makes Western New York great – Family, Friendship, and Benevolence. Together with the Y, you are helping to connect those less fortunate...

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Benoit Samuelson going to run 5K at 40th Annual Napa Valley Marathon

Runners from 16 countries and 44 states will gather in California’s Napa Valley for the 40th Annual Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon and Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K Run on Sunday, March 4, 2018. American running icon Joan Benoit Samuelson (Freeport, Maine), a member of the Running USA Hall of Champions, will be a special guest and will be running the 5k. It was 34 years ago when Joan Beniot won the inaugural U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials race in 1984 and then winning the gold medal in Los Angeles at the first women’s Olympic Games marathon. (02/15/2018) Views: 1,072 ⚡AMP
Olympians
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Flying Pig Marathon Director Honored by Running USA

Flying Pig Marathon Executive Director Iris Simpson Bush was inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions at the 2018 Running USA Industry Conference awards dinner Sunday night in Austin Texas. Entry to the Running USA Hall of Champions is reserved for those people who with devotion, vision, and commitment built the sport and provided glory for the winners and a place to excel for everyone.” Running USA said that Bush “has not only overseen the growth of one of the premiere races in the United States, but has grown the sport of running in Ohio.” (02/12/2018) Views: 936 ⚡AMP
Race Directors
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Geoff Smith, Two Time Boston Marathon Winner Attending Running USA 2018

British Olympian Geoff Smith, who won the Boston Marathon in 1984 and 1985, will be among the conference attendees at Running USA in Austin next week. He'll be representing exhibitor Stride Awards. In 1983 his race at the New York City Marathon will never be forgotten. He started at a torrid pace and built a lead of more than a half-mile over 1972 Olympic 1,500m bronze medalist Rod Dixon of New Zealand. But Smith faltered and Dixon slowly reeled him in, catching and passing the exhausted Brit a mere 400 meters from the finish line. (02/07/2018) Views: 1,374 ⚡AMP
Word Class Runners
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