Around here, rumors have been flying about the demise of several local races, namely those put on by the Columbia Triathlon Association (CTA). This non-profit organization has been behind iconic events here for over 30 years: The Columbia Triathlon, Eagleman Triathlon (a Kona qualifier) and several IronGirl events (including an all-women’s half marathon) have all been under its wing. I’ve raced almost all of them at one time or another, and some multiple times. Now word has it that the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) is potentially buying up all the events and they will go on as planned for 2014.
While saving the events is certainly good news around here, I have mixed feelings about long-standing backyard events being swallowed up by a big fish. But it’s a trend everywhere.
What happened with CTA was a mixture of money mismanagement and rapid growth. On the one hand, you’ve got increasingly larger numbers of folks jumping into triathlon and running races. CTA responded by adding more and varied races. Until a couple of years ago, this was sustainable, but lately, the races haven’t been selling out.
Obviously, there’s a saturation point for all races and some of that came into play here. But I think the problem is compounded by big corporations running smaller events out of existence, as well as a heavy dose of athletes making their races destination events. My point here: don’t forget the little, local guy when you plan your race calendars.
I understand the allure of the huge, far-flung events (ok, maybe I don’t always) but when you plot out your race schedule, consider mixing up those big production events with some smaller, local races. Everyone stands to gain this way. You get a personalized, much cheaper race experience. Your local economy also gains: restaurants, local running and bike shops, hotels and the like profit when there’s a race in town. You’re helping your neighbors and friends when you keep some of your money local.
And let’s not forget the health impact that local events have. I have watched over the years as seemingly our entire county’s population got on the bandwagon training for these events. Our master’s swim programs have exploded, our running club and local triathlon club have experienced exponential growth, and our roadways are filled with cyclists on the weekend. This is a fit and healthy population and I think that first-rate local events played no small part in that. This is a win-win for everybody.
So next time you get ready to sign on the dotted line of a race waiver across the country, take a look around and see what’s going on in your own back yard. This small ripple on a local pond can lead to some big waves of good on both the economic and health fronts for your town and region.
How often do you race locally vs. on the road? Do you have a favorite local race?