Saturday, February 21, 2009

Runners as a Stimulus

Many of us in the running industry were keeping an eye on attendance figures at road races, notably marathons over the winter months. The big question: would races see a higher than normal no-show rate. Why? The hypothesis I pondered focused on runners’ commitments to their goals set forth in a training regimen that began weeks and months ago: Would runners cut back on travel to running events as the economy worsened?

I first checked the results from the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). Nope. They seemed to be close to their recent historical trend of a 25 % no-show rate. Since the MCM closes out in a matter of 3 days, this race has a higher no-show rate than other major events that do not sell out or take months to shut down registration. ARA, specifically our medical group the American Medical Athletic Association (AMAA) has our annual fundraiser tied to the Boston Marathon. We were justifiably concerned that our sales of invitational entries into the Boston Marathon for physicians and other allied medical professionals would drop. Selling the “RUN BOSTON WITH AMAA” has gotten a bit tougher as the number of charities / non-profits that obtain invitational entries to Boston has climbed in the past 5 years. Our efforts to promote and advertise our program had to increase to get the word out there to more physicians that our program was unique and a great way to get some Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits and run the famed Boston Marathon.

Christmas approached and our sales were ahead of the past two years by 10 runners. We were encouraged. Then January hit and cold weather running dampened many a runners’ spirits. So what did we see? Sales for Boston picked up. More importantly, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) put out a release stating that their registrations were running ahead of pace and they expected to sell out much earlier than their stated closeout date of late February. It came as quite a shock to runners who were attempting to qualify for Boston in late January or February that any successful qualifying run would be for naught at Boston in 2009.

Running takes commitment. Training for marathons takes that commitment a leap further. AMAA and major running events around the U.S. are experiencing a true stimulus in this winter of economic discontent. Men and women are clinging to their lifestyle of choice: running marathons. Maybe we’ll see less air travel to some endurance events, yet don’t count out runners from filling your entry slots.

The government at the national and state level should take note of the good economic news coming from runners. The message: if you provide an excellent service or product that fulfills the needs and desires of the public they will continue to buy even when their wallets get squeezed.

Just runners making a statement by commitment to lifestyle....

(Photos courtesy of Dexter Emoto)