The Running Event Sets the Standard, by Larry Eder

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How times have changed. For most of the 1980s and 1990s, I spent a week in Atlanta, Georgia at the Super Show. It was the show to be at. At that show, as I developed magazine projects, I would write most of my ad sales for the year. The show was much more than that though..it was the meeting place of manufacterers, buyers, store owners, and sports media.

The was where I met the late Horst Dassler, the very gallante and driven leader of adidas. It was where the great shoe battles were seen, Nike versus Reebok, and brands such as New Balance rose to prominence.

The show died for many reasons, but once Nike pulled out, then so did Reebok, then so did others until the show was just a shell of its old self. The WSA became my haunt, and it does provide access to some footwear brands twice a year, it was just not enough.

The Running Event started four years ago, and for the past three years, it has continued to get better and better. This year in Dallas, Texas, the conferences, the expo and the events celebrated the present and the future of our business, and in this media observer's eyes, much is right with our business. There are also the cautionary tales...

(Please note, next year's TRE is November 9-12, 2009 in Austin, Texas).

Where do I start?

The conference is a four day affair where manufacterers, store owners, media and the sports intelligentsia meet, discuss, talk, drink, argue, challenge, cajole and laugh for about twenty hours a day.

Each day starts with a fun run, trail run, road race. Each day ends, throwing peanuts on the floor of a local watering hole, late into the night or early the next morning. The first two days are filled with conferences where subjects such as state of the sport, management of your product, management of staff, and discussions of product and the challenges of being a independent running retailer are discussed.

The first evening, there was a real Texas Barbeque sponsored by Formula 4 Media, the braintrust behind the show, and Belega Sports, one of the most progressive businesses in the sport. Belega is an American and South African business that sells performance socks and has about 40 percent of the specialty sock business-why? because they realize that this business is grown one pair of socks or shoes at a time.

The second evening was a Hall of Fame dinner, where Jim Davis, President of New Balance Athletic Shoes, Phil Knight, founder of Nike, Jeff Galloway, running guru,
John and Betsey Hughes of Track Shack and Gary Muhrcke of Super Runner Shop were celebrated for their innovation, contributions and championing of our business.

There were many moment during that Tuesday night when I said to myself, " this is amazing". Jim Davis was on the stand, talking about being giving back to the sport. Phil Knight did a video speaking about his company's roots, and the gentleman who accepted Knight's award, Eric Merck, was a concrete example of Nike's re focus on specialty running eighteen months ago.

Jeff Galloway is still the pied piper of the sport. He was in Athens, Greece, taking a group of runners across the famous marathon course. His son accepted the award on his behalf.

Don Lucas, of Luke's Locker, gave Gary Murhcke such a glowing introduction, Gary was stunned, and spoke for about two minutes, his most momentous comment-"Aspire Higher".

And then, there was John Hughes and Betsy Hughes of Track Shack. Their talk was honest and touching. John finished up with how the best thing to happen to him was right next to him, his wife and business partner, Betsy Hughes. It was honest and appreciated. John showed two postcards, both from Jeff Johnson, from 1974, thanking him for an order of Nike waffle racers, the second apologizing for a delay in delivery. The crowd went wild, how times have changed..

The expo, on Wednesday and Thursday, was well done. The 140 vendors showed everything from Jelly Belly beans to start up shoe companies. ASICS, Brooks, adidas, Avia, Nike, Reebok, New Balance, PUMA, Etonic, all the players were there.

The set up was such that one could wander down the aisles and talk to who they wanted, and find kindred souls and kindred brands. If your brand is involved in the sport, there is no reason why you should not be exhibiting at the Running Event.

The Top 50 Running Stores plus four awards were given out on Wednesday night.
The first two award were from the Independent Running Retailers Association, an important new group in our sport, championing the opportunities for specialty running stores. (I encourage all running stores to join.)

IRRA gave the Best Running shoe award to the Brooks Adrenaline. And Brooks also received the Best Vendor Award as well from IRRA.

Nike gave a new award, the Just do it award. Awarded by Joan Benoit Samuelson, the award was a winged goddess of victory and Julie Francis, a mother of three, who owns Sound Runner in Connecticutt, and puts on races galore. Julie was overcome with emotion at getting the award, and mentioned, " that's really Joannie". To say Joan Benoit Samuelson was a hit was an understatement. Another tip of the hat to Kate Delhagen and her team in Nike RSG who have championed this channel when few others in Beaverton saw a need.

The Ubunto Award, given by Belaga Sports to a store that does good in its community as well as sell shoes, kind of a good karma from dharma award, went to Running Fit of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The top fifty Running Stores were named in 2008 ( we will list them in next few days), with the Best Running Store in America (nominees were Big Peach, FitNiche, Fleet Feet Tulsa and Running spot), was Bob Ronker's Running Spot.

Bob was an early Bob Anderson at RW employee ( a decade before I got there), and his story about being at Jim Ryun's 3:51.1 mile in Bakersfield and wanting to do something good in his sport was well received. A grand man of the sport, who has given more than he has gotten, was another example to be celebrated in the four days of clinics, expos and evening celebrations.

How to make the Running Event any better? Beats me. Perhaps take it back to Austin, Texas next year. But knowing the Formula 4 team, they will find a way to improve on an event, which in its short life, has become the most important business function in our sport.

For more information on the sport of running, please clickhttp://www.runningnetwork.com

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