Have you read the recent article from the Wall Street Journal that took aim at Gen Y for being “the slowest generation?” Essentially, the article argues that the growing popularity of mud runs, color runs, and big flashy events that call themselves “races,” means that there’s an entire generation out there that wants to complete and not compete. To this generation, the article argues, it’s about that finisher’s medal, and not much else.
As someone who’s been around the block in the world of endurance sports, I do think there’s a touch of validity to this point. Maybe I’m an old curmudgeon, but I do think things have shifted away from competitive racing to “completitive” racing. Competitor Group’s recent announcement to stop offering a purse to elites, while I think a crappy decision, pretty much speaks to where the business of racing is today. Competitor is catering to that population that loves the bling, the schwag, and all that goes with it. Fields at Competitor events and the like get bigger and bigger, prices get higher and higher, and I think that the number of people going to races to truly compete, gets smaller.
Is this a bad thing? I don’t know, really. To me races have always been about racing, which is one of the reasons I do shy away from some of these really giant events–the big crowds, the bands, etc. honestly just annoy me. But I get that this is what motivates some, and if there’s a generation that needs this stuff to get off the couch, then so be it.
What does it mean to the future of racing and the nurturing of elite athletes here in the U.S.? I’m not quite sure–races are a business and if the growth opportunity is in attracting completers not competitors, then I suppose that dollar spend could be harmful.
And finally, let’s not assume that because the growth is in the big events like mud runs, there aren’t competitive runners among the generation that is supporting them. Or that, by being exposed to the front-of-the-packers, some of this generation doesn’t become inspired to focus more on winning overall/age group awards than finisher’s medals.
Whatever the case may be, I think there’s room for everyone. There are races in all sizes and shapes out there today, and all you need do is look around to find the right fit for your needs and wants.
What’s your take on completion vs. competition? A good thing, a bad thing, or something in between?
For a story about a different type of competitor, the marathon streaker, head on over to the Run With CSE blog today to read up on a couple of guys who have run every single Baltimore Marathon!