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Discussion: how to make a running race more popular

in: Orienteering; General

Feb 9, 2017 6:39 PM # 
In today's Wall Street Journal, an article on how some races are hyper-popular despite a declining nationwide trend in attendance of running races.
Feb 10, 2017 5:09 AM # 
The text faded out on me and I couldn't read anything past "The".
Feb 10, 2017 1:38 PM # 
@ tRicky: Wall Street Journal web pages require you to be a WSJ subscriber, or at least register (and possibly pay?) to see the full article. Perhaps somebody can share the gist of the article for the many who don't subscribe to the WSJ?
Feb 10, 2017 2:11 PM # 
Yes this I realise :-) Needless to say I won't be paying for it.
Feb 10, 2017 8:35 PM # 
If you Google the article title, you will get a link to the full text, without paywall.
Feb 10, 2017 10:28 PM # 
@P.Stromme: That didn't work for me. Tried following 5 links, but they all required signing in. Do you have a specific link?
Feb 10, 2017 11:15 PM # 
The gist seems to be that while overall running race entries are down, some trendy races sell out quickly, sometimes less than an hour. It wasn't so clear from my reading why those races were popular, other than having limited entries. Maybe we should restrict orienteering events to five thousand entries?
Feb 10, 2017 11:19 PM # 
As a patient was being prepped on a recent day in New York, Rae Lynne Kinler told a fellow surgeon she was stepping out for an urgent matter. She logged onto a computer, clicked through a few screens and returned.
“Did you get it?” asked the patient, under local anesthesia before a hair-replacement procedure. Yes, Dr. Kinler said, she’d secured a spot in the Brooklyn Half marathon. The patient—a runner himself—said, “Yay! Congratulations,” before the knife descended.

The Brooklyn Half, to be run on May 20, sold out in 26 minutes. That was twice as fast as last year, and more than six hours faster than it sold out in 2015.
The number of road-race finishers nationwide has dropped for two years, including declines in 2015 at every distance from 3.1 miles to a marathon, according to industry-backed tracker Running USA. Yet a few distinctive races are hotter than ever as runners sprint for coveted spots.
Dr. Kinler first ran the 13.1-mile Brooklyn Half last year and loved that the finish line was on the Coney Island Boardwalk. Organizers from New York Road Runners, which operates the Brooklyn Half, are considering whether to hold a drawing for entries to the 27,400-person race, as they do for the NYC Half and the New York City Marathon.

Petrina LeBlanc, a 45-year-old stay-at-home mom in McLean, Va., twice lost the lottery to get into the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race in Washington, D.C. She was able to secure a spot in 2013 through a process that lets people with entries who decide they can’t run the race transfer them to someone who can.

“You have to go in and plead your story: ‘I’ve wanted to run this my whole life!’” Ms. LeBlanc says. This year, she is making the new-in-town argument: She and her husband (who also lost the lottery) recently returned to the area after living in Kansas City, Mo.

People giving away or seeking a spot can connect on the event website, and bib-seekers who are selected pay the race fee plus a $15 transfer fee. Charging a premium for transfer can result in a two-year ban from the race, the website warns, so people resort to emotional appeals.
On a recent day, the race’s online bulletin board included these posts: “I need a 10 miler bib to run with my sweet wife on our 40th ann” and “Hit by drunk driver—doctor said I’d never run again.” Others said: “Getting in shape for wedding—need bib!” and “Trying to impress my girlfriend!”

The Cherry Blossom race is limited to 16,000 finishers due to its National Park Service permit for use of the National Mall, event director Phil Stewart says. The organizing committee does virtually no pre-race promotion to minimize the number of frustrated people, he says. Still, more than 10,000 people routinely are frozen out.
The popularity of a few races is creating a sticky situation for running. The number of running events nationwide increased to 30,300 in 2015, up 8% from a year earlier, while the number of race finishers declined 9%, according to Running USA. As thousands of races nationwide see interest sag, organizers have tried everything from gaudier finishers’ medals to grueling multiday challenges to wine-tasting, to make their races can’t-miss events, with mixed success.

As a perk for runners, and a source of additional revenue, the Go! St. Louis marathon and half-marathon offer upgrades to the race day. The $85 Luxury Package, on top of the $110-$115 entry fee, includes a breakfast buffet, postrace massage and access to a VIP-only bank of porta-potties. About 150 people bought the package last year, says Mona Langenberg, president of the nonprofit that operates the races.

The number of marathon and half-marathon finishers nonetheless dropped by more than half over the past five years—though organizers made up some slack by launching a 4.5-mile race last year, Ms. Langenberg says.
More events allow people to resell a race entry. But some say keeping entries scarce spurs more runners to get into races by raising money for events’ charity partners. Someone who missed the $80 to $100 regular entry for the Brooklyn Half, for instance, can get in by raising $400 for the organization’s youth charity, plus a $10 sign-up fee.

The nation’s toughest ticket has gotten even tougher in recent years: The Boston Marathon requires most runners not only to hit certain qualifying times but, given rising demand, to beat them. This year’s race, scheduled for April 17, required runners to beat qualifying times for their age group and gender by 2 minutes, 9 seconds—up from 1 minute, 2 seconds in 2015.

The Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race held in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, in 2016 sold out in 3 minutes, 34 seconds. The 4,000 general-entry slots have disappeared faster each year for the race, held in August, spokesman Jason Wolfe says. The 6,300-runner event, founded by 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, is one of the smaller ones where amateurs can compete alongside elite runners.

Word-of-mouth prompted 56-year-old Liz Battle of Lynwood, Calif., to enter the lottery to get into the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. She ran the 2015 race and was awed by the sights: military members running in uniform, others cheering on runners, and the “wear blue Mile” section of the course where hundreds of volunteers in blue pay tribute to fallen service members.

“That one pretty much stops people in their tracks,” Ms. Battle says.
The marathon ends just before the statue of servicemen raising the American flag on Iwo Jima, where finishers are awarded medals by Marine Corps lieutenants.

The Marine Corps Marathon is so popular that many people who fear they’ll lose in the marathon’s entry lottery run a separate, 11-mile race to gain automatic entry to it. The Marine Corps 17.75-kilometer race honors the year the Corps was established (1775), and since 2013 it has offered finishers a spot in the marathon, spokeswoman Tami Faram says.

But even the marathon-feeder race is tough to get into: Last year, its 3,000 slots sold out in 7 minutes, 44 seconds.
Feb 11, 2017 1:56 AM # 
@DWildfogel, I just googled "ready set grovel," and clicked on the top result. However, if I copy the link to paste into my browser, then I hit the paywall. But thanks to sherpes for posting the text.
Feb 11, 2017 2:09 AM # 
Thanks for the read. Sounds to me as though certain races sounded popular (possibly to non-runners) and now people who haven't done it just want to run in a race that loads of other people already do just to say they did something recognisable. How big is Jukola these days and yet how many people do you get to your local relay events? We don't get many.

When I used to tell my workmates that I run at orienteering events (of 10-30km duration) I get blank looks, but tell them I ran at the City to Surf (annual 12km mass participation run), I get big congratulations regardless of how well I do (although the congrats do get bigger if you get into, say, the top 50). It's popularity by association.

Others said: “Getting in shape for wedding—need bib!”

Yes because you need to run in this specific event to lose weight; there's no possible other way to achieve that goal.
Feb 11, 2017 2:24 AM # 
And yet I started orienteering to impress my boyfriend :P
Feb 11, 2017 2:28 AM # 
Was he impressed?
Feb 11, 2017 2:30 AM # 
I think 'amused' sort of covers it.
Feb 11, 2017 3:21 AM # 
don't you two ever stop?
Feb 11, 2017 12:15 PM # 
Stop what???
Feb 12, 2017 9:56 AM # 
I hope they never stop. Sparks are wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!
Feb 13, 2017 6:50 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Sparks are indeed wonderful.

I assume you mean the kind depicted in the great Girl Genius web comic?

This discussion thread is closed.