The Running Event, 2007


The Running Event, held in Austin the past two years, is the meeting place for the running industry. This year's event, held from Sunday, Nov. 11 to Wednesday, Nov.14, had 175 expo booths, 200 plus retailers and 500 attendees. Most importantly, this blogger believes, it has given the specialty running biz a place to meet, talk and look to the future....

The Running Event is the brainchild of the crew from Formula 4 Media. Mark Sullivan, Jeff Nott, Jeff Gruenhut and Troy Leonard. These guys went from their previous employers three years ago to hosting this new event in Austin in 2006. In 2007, it was like a coming home party. The retailers had grown from 140 or so to past 200. The expo was 175 booths and the two days of conferencing were compelling.

On Sunday, PUMA sponsored an interview with Bob Kennedy. Bob and his partner, Ashley Johnson, have taken one store and turned it to four stores now. Kennedy talked about the lessons he learnt from world class running in the 80's and 90's helped him in developing his business with his partner, Ashley. Ashley is also an elite runner, and their development of their stores, their staffs and how they incentivize their staffs was very good.

Kennedy was asked how he felt about todays' American distance runners and he praised the young men coming up: Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell. He admires Alan Webb and thinks Webb has learnt alot from his world champ experiences.

He also said that he ran fast because, quite frankly, he knew how to focus on long term goals and he knew how to stay on task even when the goal seemed very far away.

Kennedy is a spokesperson for PUMA, but he did not oversell them. He told about the new product, how he meets with young athletes and how he enjoys seeing these kids, who run for much different reasons than he did 20 years ago. A thoroughly enjoyable hour.

The IRRA first meeting was very good. The board offered a new credit card program for the retailers that can save the stores thousands of dollars in charges. They made it very clear that they are not a buying group, but want to work to professionalize the business and make the business stronger. John Rogers, a former executive at Reebok, Mizuno and owner of Maine Running Company, put his hat in the ring for executive director. With a strong board and support of all the stores, IRRA could be an important guiding group in the sport.

The second day of conferences had several strong work sessions. The keys are for the sessions to give the retailers something to use to improve the management of their stores and their service of their customers. On Monday night, the highlight was the Hall of Fame dinner sponsored by Running Times, Runner's World, Spenco and Brooks.

Bill Rodgers showed up and kept many happy. And among the retailers who were recognized were Laurel James and Garry Gribble. Garry is, in my mind one of the stalwarts of the sport. ( I see Garry Gribble in Kansas City, Gary Goettelman in Santa Clara and Gary Murhke in New York as a kind of trinity in retailing).

The Hall of Fame will be one of the highlights of Running Events to come and the support of Runner's World and Running Times meant that the event is being embraced by most of the major media groups of the sport.

The expo went from Tuesday to Wednesday. One and one half days. The expo was set up well and my favorite innovations were the sock bar and shoe bar. Held from six in the morning to eight in the morning.

Run by RunTEx, the attendees got to try running shoes, evaluate them and also try several brands of running socks and evaluate them. I tried three new pairs of running shoes, a Pearl Izumi, adidas and Brooks shoes. I also tried Balega and DryMax socks for the first time.

The booths were all pretty close to the same size, which means that the silliness of the last few years of the Super show were not repeated. The attendees had time and space to check out new vendors and speak to the players in the various companies. All of the major footwear brands were there, including a strong trail contingent. Apparel companies were in good attendance and so were the socks and timing and monitor companies.

Your blogger hosted our Running Network booth and it was a great time to meet and greet and speak to stores from around the country. It was good to see the support the retailers have for the show and how they use the show to add to their product line.

One example was Tim Schenone. Tim was one of my high school athletes when I coached with Terry Ward at Bellarmine way back in the early 80s. He and his brother, Chris, one of my teammates, have the Running Revolution with their wives. The store is in Campbell. Now, they are starting a new store in Santa Cruz, California, so Tim and his wife were walking the show, hunting up new vendors and speaking to their present vendors about what they needed for the new store and present store.

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