ING NYCM: Deep thoughts on the Expo, by Larry Eder


It is early Saturday morning. I am preparing for a day of meetings in the wonderful island that is Manhattan. Considering that early European settlers bought Manhattan for some beads and trinkets, it should not be surprising how well received the expos at some of the large marathons continue to be.

Speaking to many of the vendors, sales are up 11 to 30 percent in some cases, over last year. Now, there are some key reasons for that : European visitors, which are about 40 percent of the field, and the dollar being worth about an ounce of Starbucks coffee or a half a bagel. French, British, Spanish, Italian and German visitors are getting a 48 percent discount walking in the door! Anyone who slashed U.S. prices after understanding that, well, you were just giving stuff away.

Secondly, it is the culture that is New York. While Chicago, I believe, has the most spacious Expo, sales were slightly up there in 2009 because the nearly all American crowd knew that ten percent unemployment could mean them soon! They looked, they touched, and they purchased what they needed or, if there was a rock bottom price!

ING New York is an international marathon. ASICS apparel, footwear is in high demand, and Europeans get a half off because of the dollar valuation against the Euro! On top of that, the ASICS NYCM is excellent, and is a great showcase for the event!

My deep thought for today is, how many expos are too many? Sure, the big races continue to grow. And you hear the pr blah blah that marathon races are up in participation. Actually, that is not really true. Half marathons, marathon relays are up, all the events around marathons are up, but actual marathoners is down. Not a bad thing, watch in three years when the next marathon boom hits. The truth is, our sport does not have participation numbers that mean anything. It is part of being a $30 billion sport that is still trying to learn how to be professional.

My worry: mid size races, local races are having a hell of a time finding sponsors, heck, finding numbers. New big races are not bringing new people into the sport, but just cannibalizing other races. When will the bubble burst?

Our sport is growing and it is a bright sport in the economy, for the big races. For races to survive, they must find ways to tie into their community on a cultural level, and tie into the fight against obesity, like Go! St. Louis has done, for example.

Just like no dope can make a great running shoe (look at the show), no idiot can just start up a race and be successful. It may look easy, but the work involved in making ING NYCM what it is, an icon, has taken 40 years. You will be running on a long blue line on Sunday blessed by the likes of the late Fred Lebow, former NYRR President Alan Steinfeld, among others and the hard work of Mary Wittenberg, George Hirsch and their team in the present. Take a moment to consider the momentous miracle that is a big city marathon for a moment.

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