Some want to just finish the race, some want to be competitive and some want to be a part of something bigger than them. Whatever your reason for racing triathlons or endurance sports, it’s becoming increasingly easier to find points series for races to increase that desire to race more and for more reasons.
They build a sense of comradely with other participants that you are in this together. They give you a reason to race events that might not otherwise have been on your list. And, if you’re good enough, you might score enough series points to win some swag.
Ironman has the age group point series that hasn’t been making many headlines since its introduction. Lifetime Fitness has their Toyota Cup series. Even Steve in a Speedo races the Minnesota Distance Running Association's "Grand Prix" series. He’s been racing events here and there and even mentioned on one post about how he’s in the lead!
I questioned the appropriateness of the series idea and left with the notion, that if ran properly, it could succeed and benefit the races and the participants. I recently completed the Heartland 39.3 half marathon series in Kansas City to put the theory to the test. Even though it was a running series, it was still a big deal in Kansas City and gives athletes a good taste even if it’s not triathlons.
The event organizers were the Kansas City Running Company. They have quickly become one of the best Midwest running race organizers. They do timing, PR and complete race organization. They were the glue that held the series together. They proved that a series worth a damn needs a strong and established support system to sustain it.
The KC Running Co did not manage each event. They assisted with PR and logistics, but managers from the past editions stayed on board, but gained the tutelage of the KC Running Co to clean up the events and tie up loose ends. They proved that complete control of every event detail is not a necessity to provide a successful series. Much like the way WTC has retained race directors from local events they buy, but it remains to be seen if the 5150 series is “successful”.
The cohesion of the series brought one event from 300 runners in 2011 to 2000 in 2012. That race could have bombed growing so fast, but aside from parking logistics, the expansion was handled with grace. They proved that having a wildly successful event (Rock the Parkway Half – 7500+ runners) could lift other quality lesser known events up from anonymity with success.
If you were lucky enough to get early registration, you got to pay $39.30 per half marathon. That’s not bad in these times to pay that for a well-supported half marathon. Rapidly expanding event registrants and increasing the support for those events do not always have to translate into raising prices. Let’s face it; they wouldn’t have done it if they weren’t making money. Organizers and racers win.
You can’t argue with swag. Each event had a nice medal and if you raced all 3 events, you received another medal. Each event had a t-shirt and depending on when you registered for the series, you also got another shirt. The fastest way to an endurance athlete’s heart is swag.
The top 6 men and women in the series points got cold hard cash. The other faster way to an athlete’s heart is money. With all of the expansion, extra management, more logistics and the sheer volume of effort it took to organize, it was not lost on the KC Running Co to offer that carrot to get the best athletes out there. Money talks.
They brought it all, Facebook pages for each event, twitter accounts, email blasts, contests, prizes and quality events. They demonstrated what it takes to make a quality racing series.
In times when WTC cancels 5150 races due to not reaching the registration point to break even or make a certain profit, it might behoove them to step back and check out some series that work. It may be apples to oranges to compare local half marathons to Olympic triathlons spread over the country, but it could work if you cared and provided a quality event backed with confidence that it won’t be cancelled. Lean and mean, that’s all it takes, right?
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: email@example.com or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.