Is America’s appetite for marathons insatiable?
Recession? What recession? So the organizers of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Seattle Marathon and Half Marathon might be saying after the first-year event sold out months before its June 27 staging.
In any economy there are trends and counter trends of course. Not every business and industry suffers in an economic downturn. If the growth trend in a certain industry is strong enough at the time a recession hits, and if that particular industry is sufficiently recession-proof, it may continue to grow even as the nation’s total domestic product shrinks.
This appears to be the case with the endurance sports in the context of the current economic slump. For proof, look no further than the 25,000 runners filling the streets of Seattle on Saturday, not to mention the 50,000 men, women and children expected to visit the Health and Fitness Expo at Qwest Event Center Thursday through Friday.
What makes the endurance sports industry relatively recession proof? It probably has to do with the personal importance of training and competing in the lives of participants. It has often been noted that runners and other endurance athletes are psychologically and even physically dependent on exercise (in a healthy sense). So when lean times make it necessary or prudent for endurance athletes to trim their expenses, they tend to cut out other discretionary expenses before they reduce their sports budgets. Also, running is not an expensive sport. A $120 pair of shoes may last four months, and it’s just about the only gear one needs.
Some events are reporting drops in numbers, but big-city events with lots of hoopla and strong brands continue to sell out. While the Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon is a new event, it does trade off the strong Rock ‘N’ Roll brand as established through other popular events, including the Rock ‘N’ Roll San Diego Marathon and the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon in Nashville. Like other Rock ‘N’ Roll events, Seattle will feature live local bands-70 in total-playing original and cover songs at every mile, as well as high school cheerleading squads. And tens of thousands of spectators will turn out to provide additional motivation.
The marathon and half marathons begin in the suburb of Tukwila and cover the first nine miles together before the two races diverge briefly before merging again and splitting finally near the end of the half. The marathon course passes through the areas of Lake Washington, Seward Park and downtown, finishing at Qwest Field, and promises stunning views of Mt. Rainier and the Space Needle (if Mother Nature cooperates).
Both courses are relatively flat and PR- and beginner-friendly. The half and full marathons ascend a gradual, 100-foot hill between miles three and four and a shorter, steeper hill at mile nine. The last hills on the marathon course fall at 17 and 19 miles. It’s all downhill after mile 20. Already there are plans to modify the courses and make them even faster for the second year in 2010.
Another industry besides endurance sports that is booming despite the current recession is the so-called green industry. This trend is also tied into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon in the form of several environmentally-friendly initiatives. For example, it will be the first major urban marathon to compost all of the cups used on the course.