On February 12, 1964, I saw The Beatles in Carnegie Hall. Ticket prices ranged between $3.00 and $5.50 per seat for the 2900 of us lucky enough to be there. The show lasted about 39 minutes and it was complete bedlam with young girls screaming at the top of their lungs the entire time!
Paul McCartney played in DC last week. By the time you read this I will have seen him again, a mere 52 years later. I wonder if Sir Paul will remember me from the Carnegie Hall show? Tickets for this tour are routinely going for $250 and he’s selling out arenas and stadiums. The show lasts close to three hours and has all sorts of lighting effects and other things typical of today’s rock concerts.
In 1964, the Boston Marathon field broke 300 for the first time and the winning time was exactly one second under 2:20. While I don’t know this for a fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there was not a big pre- or post-race spread. There probably wasn’t even a PA system. A quick Google search did not yield information on the registration fee, but I’ll bet it was well under $5.00.
So, yes things change. Much as with Sir Paul’s concert tour, Boston is now a very different event than it was a half century ago. With 25,000+ runners and logistics/safety concerns that the founders could never have imagined.
As with pretty much everything, I believe that the pace of change in the running world will pick up exponentially over the next decade. The changes we will see will be far greater than those described above. How is that possible? Well, think about what we’ve seen in the last 5-10 years. It used to be that you ran, looked at the finisher’s clock or your watch and decided if you were happy or not. Did you beat your expected time? “Yes” meant you were happy. “No” meant you were not. Simple as that. Now, not so much. Yes, some runners still care about their times. But, increasingly, they care about the medal they get, the quality of the t-shirt and whether or not the post-race festivities include great food, beer, or entertainment. And, events such as mud runs and The Color Run, where the focus is not solely on running, have proliferated.
Race participants are looking for memorable events. They care less and less about the competitive aspects of the race. Instead, they care more and more about everything else associated with the event. Was it well organized? Was it fun? Easy to do? Memorable for things other than the actual running itself? Obviously, many runners still care passionately about their performances. But, that cohort is shrinking. The stats are pretty clear on it.
We don’t claim to be able to predict the future, but we are pretty sure that the events that will last into the decades to come will fall roughly into two groups. The iconic events such as the Boston and New York Marathons and the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler will all be fine. And, the events that add enough other enticements for participants will do well, too. Since our races have not yet reached iconic status, we have added I Found Freddy, a fun and quirky game, to our events. We are working hard to make I Found Freddy an integral part of our races for those who want some “fun beyond the run.” We’ve heard the word “gameification” and we think it’s the next phase for those of us not fortunate enough to own or operate an iconic event. But, you know what? It IS kind of fun. Actually, it’s really fun. Maybe these new participants are on to something. . . . . So, come on out and run with us and play I Found Freddy!