Chevron Houston Marathon/Aramco Houston Half Marathon: Sign of the Times, by Larry Eder



Sign at Memorial Sports Herman Sport Institute EXPO, photo courtesy of Christine Johnson

At the press conference for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, and the Chevron Houston Marathon, Race Director Brent Koch, went to the podium for the marathon, and noted the following: " The half marathon sold out in 19 hours, the marathon sold out in 60 hours, and for the first time, the 5k reached its limit of 4,500. Houston, we have no problems!"

The Aramco Houston Half Marathon, a USATF Championship, reached it's limit of 11,000 in nineteen hours. The Chevron Houston Marathon, in its 38th year, reached it's limit of 11,000 in sixty hours!

This was preceded by a conversation that I had with Wally Kastner, the founder and director of the Big Sur Marathon, just the day before. On telling me that the Big Sur Marathon had sold out, and sponsor ASICS had signed on, once again, for three years, Kastner quipped, " Not bad for a little race in Northern California."

The above examples are not unique situations, but constant affirmations of the strength and vitality of our sport! The great events continue to grow, the great events continue to prosper and gain sponsors, and the marginal events get lost in the flotsam....

When the late Fred Lebow pitched a major New York concern for a sponsorship of the inaugural five boroughs/New York City Marathon in 1976,he asked for $5,000. In his thick Transvaal accent, something that endeared him to his fans, Lebow told the sponsor of his dream of running a marathon through the five boroughs. The marketing manager told me, years later, " We thought the guy was nuts, and he was asking for five thousand dollars to run a marathon through the five boroughs! It could never happen."

Over the past eighteen months, there has been a near collapse of the single home market. Banks, given money by our government to help them make money easier to borrow for consumers and small business, have actually tightened up credit requirements. While some of this is good, it has had a negative effect on new jobs and new Job opportunities.

Yet, all during this time, performance running footwear sales continue to soar. That top billion dollars in the $7.5 billion running footwear market grew during the downturn in 2008 and 2009, and companies such as ASICS, Nike, Saucony and Mizuno, among others showed strong growth during the so-called down turn. This is also at a time when there is better product and more opportunities for the consumer to find a great answer to their footwear needs!

In the race world, the rise of Competitor Group races (formerly Elite Racing), now with fourteen events, has had an amazing effect on mid size races. With the advent of dozens of new race management companies, medium size races are continuing to grow and thrive, as the new and more professional race management companies, combined with race staff experience, give the runner or walker a better race experience.

For years, New York , Chicago, Boston, London, Berlin have all sold out pretty early in their planned time period. The Tokyo marathon had 240,00 applications--and 40,000 were accepted.

The Chevron Houston Marathon the the Aramco Houston Half marathon show that, the attention to detail, the care with the elite racers, but most of the all, providing an experience for the running consumer that inspires them, makes them think or encourages them to act. In this case, run the race, or sign up again, next year!

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