Competitor Group (CGI) eliminates any and all support of elite athlete fields in North American events, effective immediately, by Larry Eder

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It was learnt late on Friday evening, August 30, that CGI, aka the Competitor Group, a group of 83 endurance events in North America, ten in Europe and Asia and several endurance media platforms, has eliminated their support of elite athletes in North American events. This includes appearance fees, travel and lodging. In doing this, CGI had made a strategic business decision that the 240,000 plus participants have little or no interest in the front of races and that the estimated $475,000 could be better used elsewhere within in their business group.

Meb Keflezighi winning RNR San Jose 2011, 
photo by

RunBlogRun appreciates the need of businesses within the sport to be run like businesses. However, many successful events and programs in North America and Europe support elite athlete development in their events and are also highly successful and profitable events. It is in a long term approach to the development of the sport, and keeping running both a sport and an activity that presents the challenge. 

There are no easy answers. RunBlogRun is truly saddened by the new approach taken by CGI and hopes that consumer outrage may challenge them to reconsider. 

Breaking News: Competitor Group (CGI) eliminates any and all support of elite athlete fields in all North American events effective immediately!

August 30, 2013. San Diego, CA

Competitor Group (CGI), the owners and producers of 83 endurance events in North America, ten events in Europe and Asia, plus several endurance media platforms, have eliminated, "with immediate effectiveness" any and all support of elite athlete fields and development in their North American participatory events it was learnt today.

RunBlogRun has learnt that the decisions to effect these changes were made this past Wednesday, August 28, 2013 and were relayed to those involved over the past 48 hours. 

While the sources went to great pains to communicate that the age group grand prix will be continued, the sources also noted  that the support that CGI, formerly Elite Racing, Inc., gave to the front end of the sport in North America is gone immediately. 

RunBlogRun has confirmed that elite athletes for the Philly Half Marathon, which is to be held on September 15, will not have their appearance fees honored nor their travel. While prize money will still be in place, no further support of such developing elite athletes will be supported. 

Remember, this is the series where seventy-one of the 300 plus qualifiers for the 2012 U.S. Marathon team trials qualified. Elite stars such as Haile Gebrselassie, Paul Tergat both competed first, on the roads,  in North America in CGI (then, Elite Racing events), with Gebrselassie setting World bests and a World record.

This means, no more battles to the finish between Olympic champion Mo Farah and Gebre Gebremariam, former winner of the NYC marathon, in the RNR New Orleans Half Marathon. 

Meseret Defar, who won the Zurich 5,000m last night and won the World Champs 5,000m in Moscow, as well as the London Olympic 5,000 meters, ran her first Carlsbad 5k and finished 11th, not even taking the $100 prize for top ten. Two years later, she was a global medalist. Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, former AR in the 10,000m, current AR holder in the marathon, set an American record in the Carlsbad 5k. 

Mo Farahs' first run in Carlsbad netted him fourth-these runners raced and developed their talents on the roads of CGI events. Now, he is a double/double global champion, having won the 5,000m and 10,000m in both the Olympics and recent World Championships. 

Distance athletes take 12-14 years to develop. They have highs and lows, ups and downs. Mo Farah's development to a four time global gold medalist was not overnight, nor was World Champ 800 meter bronze medalist Brenda Martinez. Racing and the opportunity to train, race and develop are key. Financial support is key in that development. And the financial support is exactly what CGI is eliminating. 

The elimination of elite support in North America mostly affects the Philly Half Marathon, the San Antonio Half Marathon, the San Diego Half Marathon and Marathon and the New Orleans Half Marathon.

How effective has CGI been in developing elite fields in their North America races? Our research, quickly done, noted ten Olympic medals for athletes who have competed in the series. In this recent world championships, both 10k winners, the women's marathon winner, all three 5k men and women medalists have raced in North America in CGI events. In fact, CGI support went all the way down to World Championship bronze medalist at 800 meters, Brenda Martinez. Sources close to the series noted that elite competitors from CGI events have set 23 world records.

Personally, one of our most read interviews ever was with Haile Gebrselassie, the year he set road world records in RNR Arizona. Without the support of the late Mike Long, who shepherded the elite programs at Elite before CGI existed, those interviews would never have been done. Another great interview and series of articles were on Meb Keflezighi, U.S. 2012 Olympic Trials marathon champion, 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2012 fourth placer in the London Marathon. Meb developed his long distance racing chops running RNR events, including superb runs in RNR San Jose. 

How will this effect the sport? One key observer noted that  running is both an activity and a sport, and CGI had investments in both. With this move, however, Competitor Group ceases to be involved with the sport, they now produce endurance activities. 

Another keen observer noted, " One has to realize that is very easy to get involved in our sport. Who is in it for the long term and who is in it for the short term?"

What also has to be stated is this: the managing of 83 events is an arduous task. Competitor Group has made, for many years,  a significant investment in the development of elite fields in their key events. Young American athletes benefited from their largesse as well as the most elite. Young global runners   also competed first in North America in these events. For CGI, however, the decision was made that investing in elite athlete fields in North America no longer made "business sense". The term, "strategic move" was used many times in discussions with RunBlogRun as the strategy change was explained, and perhaps, more truly, rationalized. 

Brenda Martinez, Mo Farah, Vivian Cheruiyot, Dejan Gebremeskel, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan have all competed in CGI events. Now, that investment is history, a part of the past of CGI. How many young athletes, inspired by seeing a Mo Farah, or Shalane Flanagan or Kara Goucher, will we loose? 

Sources told RunBlogRun that CGI will take the investment made in elite development in North America, estimated at north of $475,000, into other areas of their business ventures. 

This is a huge loss to the sport in North America, but also a huge loss to the global sport. Running in most countries outside of the U.S. would seldom consider a major event with at least a small elite front field. 

Does elite development make business sense? It depends if one is in the sport for the long run, or the short run. For CGI, their many endurance holdings, from endurance events to endurance media platforms, are a business, and from a profit and loss standpoint, their management no longer believed that support of elite athletes made business sense, RunBlogRun was told earlier this evening. 

Where does this leave the sport? Only time will tell, but RunBlogRun is truly saddened by CGI's elimination of a very worthwhile support mechanism for developing elite athletes but, most especially, American elite athletes. 

More and more, especially, in North America, running is loosing its sporting sensibility and becoming an endurance activity. It is part of the reason why the media is confused on how to cover the sport in North America. Without local heros, competition, sports media does not know how to place running-does it go in sports or on the activities page?  

This story continues to develop and RunBlogRun will continue to update as more details become available. 

For information on the Half Marathon GP, we have linked the March 2013 press release:

1 Comment | Leave a comment

This comes down to $5700 per event. I'm guessing that these events average enough total participants that this comes down to $1 or so per entry to cover this. Are the competitors willing to have the $1 added? Will the organization keep the increase to only $1?

Will there be enough runners willing to send a message at Philly or upcoming event and wear their numbers upside down as a sign of distress over this decision? Will masses of runners who have signed up at Philly be willing to stay away and FB or blog about their run at home as a protest?
Pulling start money and travel money for elites this close to the event is completely unacceptable. I can see it on events that they have not contracted with elites for if this is their corporate direction, but not for the events that they have committed to. Simply bad form. If indeed this is their corporate decision, then it leaves the door open for another company.

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