Monday, July 16, 2012

A Rich Time For Endurance Sports Events

We live in a particularly rich time for endurance sports events - of all kinds. Running, cycling, swimming, triathlons, and now obstacle and adventure races - there has never been a better time to be an active participant and endurance sports athlete.

Go back an athletic generation, say about 15 - 20 years ago and, the pickings nor the selection was anywhere near as rich. Over the last two decades numbers of participants across the board in all of these endurance sports events has grown in a big way. In some cases explosively - in the case of the so called "dirty events", or obstacle races such as  The Spartan Race, The Warrior Dash, Muddy Buddy and others. These events barely existed a few years ago and now, attract, 4,000 - 7,000 people for a first year event! The Spartan race is expecting over a million participants world wide next year, and the Warrior Dash, bills it self as "the largest running series in the world"!

It's not uncommon now for marathon running races to have over 20,000 runners. Indeed, the really high profile marathons such as the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon, have over 25,000 and 30,000 respectively. The Vancouver Sun Run 10K get's 45,000 entrants every year! However in terms of year over year growth, the really big growth is in the 1/2 Marathon races! Then there are the Color Runs, which, are a bit hard to describe, but none-the-less, growing immensely in popularity in a very short period of time. Indeed,  niche seems to be key in running, with women's only runs, dress-up runs, and even running events for you and your dog, such as the Walk Run Wag series! The latter is geared towards fit runners who own fit dogs, but also less fit dog owners who's dogs are perhaps not as active as they should be!

Even within a sport such as cycling, the diversity of options is impressive with events for everyone and different disciplines. Traditional road racing, such as what is seen in the Pro Tour and  events like the Tour de France, are growing at the amateur and licensed category level, but the growth of more mass participation events, in the past called sportifs and now referred to as gran fondos is really growing. Some of these such as the Centurion Cycling series (see picture at top), founded by North American triathlon and Ironman pioneer Graham Fraser, try to give the racer and the rider, a similar experience to racing in a Pro Tour cycling event! "Racers race and riders, ride", is the motto for Centurion.

In the off-road cycling world, again more diversity - Traditional mountain bike racing, has  gone a bit under-ground and now gaining popularity are off-road trail races, with less technical terrain, like the new Fire Road Cycling events - gran fondos, or "Dirt Fondos" for the off-road crowd. The grand-daddy of this genre being the annual Leadville 100 -  a100 mile Mountain Bike race which is run entirely above 10,000 ft of elevation and is one of the hardest off-road races to get into!

Triathlon, the sport that really kicked off the endurance sports diversity trend many years ago, continues to grow - with Ironman triathlons still selling out a year ahead of time. One wonders where it will all start to plateau, but the numbers still seem to be growing in triathlon - even with a small cohort of veteran triathletes leaving the sport, at one end for one of the above activities, they are quickly replaced, by many newbies coming in at the front end of the sport of triathlon. There are even races specifically geared to the new triathlete such as the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series events, with their aptly named "Give-It-A-Tri" races for the newbie to get a taste of swim/bike/run.

No surprise, there has been a small cottage industry of Event Services companies that have sprung up supplying a variety of services to all of these wide ranging events. Timing & results companies, online registration companies, race photography and videography companies, race (bib) number printing companies - all supplying various needs for these many endurance sports events. It's a thriving industry and business, with an interesting range of vendors and suppliers from small to large!

That being said, and the richness of the endurance sports event selection out there, what sorts of events are you into? Has what interests you changed recently? What's next for you?

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Unknown said...

For now - I'll stick with my love for Duathlons // Run and Bike - keep life simple, dry and fast :)

My interns rocked a Spartan Race near Toronto a couple Sunday's ago... As a Sgt in the USMarines they tried to talk me into going with them, but I didn't want to embarrass them too badly - they're still kids!

Steve Fleck said...

Sam - that's awesome. If you love the Du, stick with it. I've never understood why Duathlons are not as popular.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this post! I think it would be a great idea to have tailor made sports tours too. It's affordable.