Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Moser Column: All running events aren’t created equally

Dan Moser's column this week focuses on the growing number of running races in Lee County and the importance of having well managed races.  He also provides his list of top road races in our area...mark your calendars now for the ones we might want to sign-up for.
Florida Weekly, Outdoors Section
Sept. 3, 2013
Dan Moser
Southwest Florida, especially Lee County, has long been a place where well-managed running races are abundant. Beginning in the late 1970s, when America’s first running craze took hold, Fort Myers Track Club was established and began satisfying area runners’ needs for these kinds of events. FMTC has been a class-act and the primary race management organization in our community since that time. Recently, however, we’ve been somewhat saturated with races and event managers, which may or may not be a good thing.
The good news, obviously, is that runners of all ages and fitness levels have more choices, especially when it comes to 5K (3.1 miles) events. In fact, that relatively modest distance is also very popular with walkers, meaning more potential participants in any given 5K. The not-so-good news is that there are so many races taking place — sometimes on the same date and in close proximity — that participant numbers suffer. That’s a problem for organizers, which are usually nonprofit organizations using these events as fundraisers. In some cases, expenses such as T-shirts, awards, refreshments, paid charity organization staff time, race management fees and police and public works costs are greater than entry fees and sponsorship revenue taken in. All these expenses add up, which is why nonprofits should do their homework before deciding to use a race as a way to raise funds. In many cases, it makes no sense to add another event to the busy calendar, and, in fact, some races should go by the wayside.
Another negative that comes with saturation is related to quality. The overall experience for participants can vary quite a bit now that there are so many different organizations and individuals involved in staging and managing races. So, while entry fees are relatively consistent, the quality of the events may not be. This is especially true when it comes to the longer distance races (10Ks and longer), including a number of new ones that have emerged in recent years.
Until two or three years ago, River, Roots & Ruts and Hooters-to-Hooters were the only half-marathons in Lee County, and they remain top-notch events. Understandably, there were no marathons in Lee County, because to facilitate them properly requires an unbelievable amount of work, capital and professional management. In my opinion, FMTC made a wise decision not to undertake this huge task and instead concentrate on what it does best. But three different marathons (each with corresponding half-marathons) have emerged in the past four years. Not surprisingly, the runner experience appears to have been less than what should be expected, especially considering the high entry fees for these labor- and expense-intensive events. One has already folded after two undertakings and another has changed venues but is staying within Lee County. A third marathon will be making its debut in late 2014.
Along with the new marathons (and their default half-marathons), specialty shorter distance runs that involve things like mud, paint and costumes are popping up. Whether they will endure is impossible to know. But regardless of distance or quirkiness, how they are managed and where proceeds go are what potential participants should consider before shelling out their registration fees. Below are those I consider well worth the money and that benefit good causes. Although mine is a long list, there are many more to choose from, some of which may leave participants feeling let down while others could be just what runners or walkers are looking for.
¦ River, Roots & Ruts Half Marathon & 5K trail runs at Caloosahatchee Regional Park (January)
¦ Tour de Cape 5K, the day prior to the bike event (January)
¦ Bug Chase 5K from Calusa Nature Center (January)
¦ Edison Fest 5K, immediately prior to Edison Fest Parade in Fort Myers (February)
¦ Hooters-to-Hooter Half Marathon in Fort Myers (March)
¦ Lehigh 4-Miler (March)
¦ Eggs & Ears 5K (formally Do the Right Thing) in Gateway (April)
¦ African Aid 5K in Fort Myers (April)
¦ Turtle Trot 5K in Lovers Key State Park (May)
¦ Cape Cops 5K from Cape Coral Yacht Club (May)
¦ Memorial Day 5K on Eastwood Golf Course (May)
¦ FMTC Membership Run from Twins Stadium (June)
¦ Freedom 5K across Cape Coral Bridge (July)
¦ Estero DDD 5K cross country race (August)
¦ Prostate Cancer 5K from JetBlue Park (September)
¦ Sanibel FISH 10K (October)
¦ FMPD Cops & Joggers 5K, night run across Edison Bridge (October)
¦ LCEC Fall Fest 5K from Jeffers Park, Cape Coral (October)
¦ YMCA Veterans Day 5K, night run across Midpoint Bridge (November)
¦ Turkey Trot 5K from Cape Coral Hospital (November)
¦ River Run 5K & 10K, across bridges from downtown Fort Myers (December)
¦ Everyone Runs 5K & Half Marathon (from JetBlue Park (December)
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways. ¦
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly.

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