"20 in 10"

The 2008 Running USA National Conference was recently held in San Diego. Running USA is the trade association for the running industry that was established in 1999. This year over 350 attendees, including representatives of the Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM), gathered to discuss issues affecting the sport and business of running.

All major road races were represented, along with many other businesses that depend on races or runners for buying their products: makers of shoes, training software, medals and awards, sports drinks, clothing companies, media and magazines, photography, heat sheets, and nearly anything else you can think of related to running.

Each year at the conference there is Hall of Champions banquet where individuals are inducted into the Hall. This is one of the highest honors in the sport - like being selected for football or baseball’s Hall of Fame - and the list of Champions reads like a who’s who of the running community. This year, the BSIM’s race director, Wally Kastner, was selected for induction.

Wally was praised for “taking the wonderful Big Sur Marathon and making it the crown jewel of American marathons”. The BSIM was called “the greatest running experience on the planet.” He was also instrumental in being one of the founding partners of Running USA in 1999.

The Big Sur Marathon’s JUST RUN youth program, with Susan Love as administrator, was in the limelight in three separate conference sessions on youth running. JUST RUN is considered the premier national model for other youth programs. JUST RUN, which started just 2 years ago in Monterey County, now has over 5,000 children involved, and groups in 15 California counties, 12 states, and 2 foreign countries.

The conference theme this year was “20 in 10”, which is a challenge that was presented in the keynote speech by Basil Honikman, outgoing CEO of Running USA. The industry was challenged to increase the number of race finishers in United States races to 20 million within 10 years.

The goal is ambitious as there were less than 9 million race finishers in 2007. These 9 million finishers represent approximately 4 million unique runners, as some finish multiple races. Doubling the number of race finishers would have simultaneous benefits: increasing the health and well being of the U.S. population, while significantly improving the businesses of the races and companies in the industry.

There are 12 million runners in the United States that run at least twice a week but only 4 million of those enter races. The most popular race distance in 2007 was the 5K with about 3.5 million finishers, followed by the 10K with 1 million, and the marathon with 520,000.

In the two days of the conference many ideas were presented to reach this goal; more events for the first timer and the reticent, more national promotion and TV and media coverage, more fun in events, creation of tounaments and running leagues, reaching out to minority members (only 2% of race finishers are people of color), and more youth programs and races. Many speakers said the sport needs recognizable heroes and stars.

One interesting group of statistics was presented by Andy Hersam, the publisher of Runner’s World magazine; with 650,000 subscribers it has the largest subscriber base of any Running publication. Runner’s World surveys indicate that 28 million people in the U.S say they at least run occasionally. Of these, 19 million are married but 14 million of their spouses don’t share the habit – they DON’T run. Also there are 35 million family members that don’t run.

Therefore, the easiest route to making “20 in 10” actually happen lies in each runner’s home, and in finding a way to get spouses and children out running and entering races. There should be more races for kids. More races like the Together With Love Run in Pacific Grove that have couples competitions, or family divisions. Not only is this fun and healthy, but it promotes family time. As Wally Kastner said in his induction speech, “I am convinced runners can save the world.”

Another speaker indicated that although the Professional Golf Tour advertises on every telecast that the PGA tour raises 150 million dollars for charity each year, the running industry does little to publicize the fact that races raise almost $1 billion per year for charity – in other words, six times as much as golf.

Dave McGillivary the Boston Marathon race director says that when people ask him what he does for a living he says, “I raise the self esteem and self confidence of thousands of people each April.”

The Saucony shoe company corporate saying is now, “A good day is when you get to run. A Great day is when you inspire others to run.”

So the message we’re delivering from the Running USA conference to all our running friends is to share the gift you already have. Give it to your spouse and family and friends as well. Help in the drive for “20 in 10”.

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Runner Watching

Most runners become amazingly adept at recognizing their friends from a long distance away by their unique running styles. Even in the dark, a distinctive posture or tilt of the head or arm swing gives everyone away. Running styles become your own personal signature, almost like a fingerprint.

Some runners are regal and elegant, and others are blue collar and industrious. Some prance like fillies, others plod like Clydesdales. If you watch from a distance, you’ll see all styles and types.

One of the great things about running is that any style is acceptable. We’re not figure skaters or divers, so style points don’t count. However, while any style is OK for recreational runners, only a highly efficient style will suffice for the competitive racers.

Running style is largely influenced by your body type and biomechanics. Virtually everyone has some quirk created by bone structure, core strength and symmetry, muscle imbalances, foot alignment, and other minor abnormalities we all live with.

All of these traits are helpful in playing a little game that’s similar to bird watching; trying to spot as many different running species you can find. We’ve helped you get started, by developing a beginner’s field guide to indigenous runners of the Monterey Peninsula:

The Happy Hummingbird: Characterized by short choppy steps and boundless energy, this runner bounces from tree to bush with optimism and flair. They are a joy to watch. These carefree runners often drift back and forth across the trail, wandering wherever the spirit leads them, travelling nearly everywhere but along a straight line.

The Cowering Crow: Unfortunately you see this depressing runner all the time. They frown. They groan. They sneer. They grunt. They look like they’d rather be doing anything but running. Typically they are fitness or weight loss runners who really don’t enjoy running, but are just going through the motions because they know they should. This is the species of runner that non-runners spot while driving in their car, and think to themselves, “THAT’S why I’m not a runner!”

The Prancing Peacock: This is typically a female of the species who dresses to impress and to strut her stuff. Easily identifiable by ornamental clothing, this chickadee is often seen with colorful tights or running shorts accompanied by skimpy tops. Her bright tail feathering is often adorned with words such as “Pink,” “Juicy,” or “Abercrombie and Fitch”.

The Bare-Chested Bird of Prey: Easily identifiable on the trails by a shirtless look even on cold days. Typically, the male of the species strips down to impress any potential mates who may be nearby. (Not surprisingly, these runners are typically “available”). A commonly observed ritual sees the male flex his muscles around a prancing peacock, while chirping his “How you doin’ honey?” mating call.

The Wing-Flapping Vulture: This runner is easily identified by aggressive behavior and flapping arms. Often found running very fast with arms rotating in strange directions, this style often comes with head bobbing as well. Phoebe from “Friends” was the best pop-culture example of this species. Running close to this bird is not only embarrassing, but can frequently be dangerous as well.

The Delirious Dodo: You see this runner avoiding the safer trails and running paths in favor of routes through crowded traffic areas. They cross streets unexpectedly, run in the same direction as approaching cars, and drift across bike lanes on the recreation trail. In the darkness they wear dark colors with no reflective gear. It is no wonder that natural selection has made them an endangered species.

The Beast of Burden: This strange, Type A bird insists on trying to do two workouts at the same time. They are easily identified by running while carrying weights on their arms or tied to their legs. Sadly, this unusual behavior usually ruins both the joy and freedom of the running experience, while simultaneously lessening the effectiveness of their strength work.

The Red-Breasted Novice: We have mentioned this sorry creature in other columns. He’s easy to spot in the final miles of a marathon or half-marathon with distinctive red spots on the breast, caused by blood from chafed nipples without protection. His appearance often triggers shock and disgust amongst first-time bird watchers. The Red Breaster frequently has a distinctive cry of intense pain that sounds like the whippoorwill, which they repeat continuously during the last few miles of their race.

The Soaring Golden Eagle: These magnificent members of the species look like they were born to run. They move elegantly and magnificently with perfect posture, and their speed appears effortless. They glide over the ground and look like they could run forever. You’ll typically find these birds localized in the lead pack of any major marathon.

Now that you have your beginner’s guide, we encourage you to take up a new hobby. Feel free to keep this column with you in your car to make field identification easier. Just remember to not judge the different varieties too harshly. As we said before, any running style is a good one – all except for the Dodo.

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