There are so many triathlons out there that are scraped together by passionate people and run on a shoestring in order to provide a race for the dedicated populous. Take the SWAT Triathlon near Kansas City. Sue put on the event for Supporting Weatherby's Adopted Troops and only asked for enough to cover some operating costs and to have some to donate to help local veterans and their families. There were no lifeguards, no medals, no timing chips and no bike racks. Around 130 athletes came out and ran the race. The forum posting shows that everyone had fun and no one was missing out on the fanfare that has become WTC events.
Then you have the other side of the spectrum with WTC and the Ironman race series. You have the full 140.6 miles, the 70.3 and more recently the 5150 series. No one can argue with the success of the full and half ironman distances. Build it, and they will come.
But, what about the 5150 series? While trolling my google reader, I came across DCRainmaker’s latest take HERE. Take a minute and read what he has to say about WTC cancelling 5150 series events. Some is speculation, and some is backed up by WTC that they are cancelling events due to “low” registration. They cancelled one event that had 700+ signed up. Since when is 700+ triathletes a “low” registration?
Well, for a local race run by a local race director with local contacts with modest operating costs, 700 athletes is a windfall! I know some KC area organizers that would cut off an appendage to get 700 athletes to their races. But, when you are the size of WTC and you are trying to drum up support for a race series with the overhead costs that WTC has, then 700 just isn’t enough. It’s business. No one wants to pay for organizing events out of their pocket. We get that. The real question is not about how people are getting hosed by having the event cancelled 4 weeks out. The real question is, is the business model broken?
Let’s look at it on a smaller scale. Imagine you run marathons and half marathons as your staple event. You’re shortest training run is a 5k most likely. Are you going to pay a HIGH price to run a 5k that you have to drive more than 50 miles to and maybe get a room to stay in the night before? Probably not, especially when you can walk out of your front door and run a 5k for free, or find a local 5k for $20. But, a lot of marathon runners would travel to Chicago, New York or Boston for 26.2 miles of running. The 5k distance just isn’t your main target so you are not going to invest a hunk of change to run one.
Then you have the triathlete. If 70.3 and 140.6 races are your goal, are you going to throw out registration, traveling and lodging for a Olympic triathlon that amounts to a long training ride or run on the weekend? There are probably plenty of local events to choose from and if you are that motivated, you can do your own triathlon at home. Registration is free, and your house is transition. You can throw all the medals and fanfare you want at it, but racing a 5150 just doesn’t have the draw that 70.3 and 140.6’s do. Those are monumental accomplishments. Don’t misunderstand, racing an Olympic for the first time is a great accomplishment as well, and maybe some athletes are emotionally invested enough to travel for that first Olympic distance event. Those athletes are probably the minority and not enough to support WTC’s 5150 series and the numbers they need to make it work financially.
WTC is in the business of making money. Their Ironman Access Program came and went, 5150 came and now may go, too. WTC may have found a limit to the Ironman Brand. Build it too small, and they won’t come.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans. Ryan is also the Kansas City Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE and he collects race reviews at www.Triathlon-Reviews.blogspot.com. Contact Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.
*Expressed opinions are not necessarily that of EverymanTri.com