The United States’ economy appears headed for hard times, with more people losing their jobs and homes while food and energy prices head skyward. Global markets have been impacted as well, creating a worldwide ripple effect.
Major economic downturns have a way of forcing consumers to hold on to their money until it’s safe to spend again. For runners, it may mean delaying a GPS or heart rate monitor upgrade or holding on to those running shoes for a few more miles. One area bound to be impacted is races. People concerned about losing their job may not be as willing to pluck down $35 for a 5k when that money can otherwise help to buy groceries or gas. Destination marathon fields could tip towards the locals as others question the major travel expenses associated with the trip.
Just as economic recessions “correct” excesses in a market, a prolonged downturn could impact the robust number and quality of road and trail races currently available. Of course, some people never race, others rarely. But there is a sizable number of runners who enter several (sometimes weekly) single or multi-sport races annually for the challenge and the change of pace.
Running is big business and race organizers market to athletes with above-average, and often affluent, incomes. Eventually, though, a protracted recession will impact everyone’s wallet – even if it’s out of fear, rather than misfortune. If enough runners cut down on the number of races they enter, it’s inevitable that some poorly attended events will not return. On the flipside, if you’ve tried in vain to get into exceptionally popular half or full marathons, your time may soon come.
The ultra community is famous for no-frills races called “Fat Asses”. These aren’t flashy events and they aren’t always ultra-length. There are no T-shirts or awards and often no aid. For people with a limited budget or oversupply of race stuff, they are an ideal way to continue gathering for a fun, challenging run on a vetted course. Just as trail running has gained popularity among those long done with the roads, so too might Fat Asses start to gain traction if runners can no longer afford to keep up their road race habit.
Is the current economic turmoil making you reconsider some of your race plans? Are you cutting back elsewhere in your running (such as wardrobe, gadgets, memberships, magazine subscriptions, etc.)? Would you be willing to enter a race or extend a subscription or buy another pair of tights or shorts just to keep an organization solvent? Or do you think the running community is immune from outside economic pressures and will as it has in good times?
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