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Op-Ed: Redefining the Sport, One Meet at a Time

Published by
Scott Bush   Mar 20th 2013, 2:20am

One of the ongoing discussion points for those in the track and field/road racing community revolves around the desire to connect casual road racing participants with professional track and field. Time and time again folks within the industry have talked about, and acted on, ways to make that connection, but more times than not that connection simply doesn’t register.

Over the past few years, there have been a number of new track and field competitions that have popped up, looking to take the sport in a new, fresh direction.

In 2005, I launched the Midwest Distance Gala with co-director Patrick Tomasiewicz. Patrick and I looked to redefine how a track meet was presented, packing a full schedule of top-tier high school distance races in a window of less than two hours, playing music during races, connecting more with fans on a year-round basis rather than a four week push, and much more. We weren’t alone, as a handful of other individuals across the country started competitions like street vault, event-only meets and mile road races.

All of us were in the same boat, wanting to improve the sport, wanting to connect not just with track and field fans, but with those already connected to the activity of the sport, who were unaware of the professional side of the sport. We wanted to connect with sports fans. While some of these efforts have worked in a variety of ways, many did not, and there is still a lingering question around whether or not track and field can grow as a spectator sport in the American sporting world.

Coming in early May (May 5 to be exact), Pete Hess and James Kehaya will put on Re:RUN San Diego. If you’ve yet to hear about the meet, here’s the quick description: It’s a combination of two road race events (5k and 10k), with a five-race, distance oriented track meet at the end of it. Runners who register for the 5k or 10k have free entry into the meet and there’s a unique tie in to have more investment in the pro athletes from the road runners. From the pro perspective, not only is $15,000 up for grabs in each event, it’s also a great way to connect with fans.

Pete and James view this as an opportunity to connect two sides of our sport that aren’t who really aren’t talking to one another. Professional track and field in the United States is in a strange spot. We have the strongest track and field team in the world, we constantly win the most medals at World Championships and Olympics Games’, yet the sport is virtually unknown those three years in between Olympiads. On top of that, our best American track and field athletes head over to Europe during the peak part of their season, thus becoming invisible to the American sports media.

We’ll see how Re:RUN San Diego unfolds. With strong fields, good prize money, two road races built around the track event, a short time schedule and a built in connection between Joe Jogger and the professional athletes, I have high hopes for the event and will keep a careful eye on the outcome. We as a sport need to rally around innovative ideas like Re:RUN. Whether it succeeds in a big way or falls flat on its face, the sport needs to take risks in order to improve.

Check back on RunnerSpace Wednesday afternoon for an interview with Re:RUN San Diego director Pete Hess.

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2 comment(s)
Good read Scott!
Chris Nickinson
News: Op-Ed: Redefining the Sport, One Meet at a Time by @scottybush
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