Running and The Travelling Road Show…

Yesderday, I ran my first “Travelling Road Show” event.

This is how I refer to events that just load up their equipment, travel from city to city, and put on the same event over and over again.

Usually, I avoid these types of races (I am thinking of you “Rock n Roll Marathon”), opting instead for the local events.

There is something impersonal about these traveling circuses. There is no connection to the community. I could be in any city and get the same experience. Most larger cities have a local running club that hosts a yearly marathon, as well as many smaller events throughout the year. In many cities, these marathons have been held annually for over 25 years. Thousands of runners participate. Hundreds of thousands of spectators show up. The expo is the social event of the year for many runners, the marathon is the event of the year, and the city has no issues shutting down many of its more scenic routes for most of the day to host this event.

You can feel the connection to the community.

I always felt that the Travelling Road Show missed all of this. It was a for profit organization that would feel generic and without a soul.

But, for some reason, the Travelling Road Show is my preference in the world of triathlon.

As I went to packet pickup the other day, I started to reflect on these prejudices and wondered if they were fair. I also wondered why I came to such opposite conclusions for running and triathlon events.

I guess that the difference is that Triathlon is a much newer sport. Very few races have been around 10+ years. The locations where triathlons are held are also different. They need an area by a body of water that can host a large scale swim and a field/parking lot that can serve as transition. It also needs a lot of usable roads. Even an olympic triathlon needs more road access then a marathon does. An Ironman needs 100+ miles. For these reasons, triathlons tend to be held in the middle of nowhere . There are exceptions to the rule (Chicago, Minneapolis, NYC triathlons come to mind), but most are in rural setting where there are not as many people to develop or grow these types of events. There are also a lot more logistical issues when putting together a swim and bike event then just a running event. A company like World Triathlon Corporation (Ironman), Lifetime Fitness, Challenge, or Rev 3 can easily drive into town, get everything set up and add a certain amount of polish to the whole affair. Indeed, the only locally produced triathlon that I have participated in seems quite amateurish in comparison. I only saw 2 or 3 lifeguards on the swim for example. I doubt that I would have traveled to Benton Harbor, Racine, Lawrence, or Muncie for a local tri. But seeing the name Ironman made me confident that they would be top shelf events….and they were. However, all these events have blended together in my mind. The swag, the registration, the merchandise tent, even the medals looked alike. I could easily lose track of where I was. However, the course was always the highlight. Each had their own nuances, charms and challenges.

So, if I accepted this in triathlon, why didn’t I care for it when running.

I don’t really know.

Certainly, for travel purposes, I will participate in the biggest race the city has to offer…which has always been a local race. For whatever reason, we don’t see many Traveling Road Shows in Minnesota. Rock ‘n Roll doesn’t come here. But I tried the Hot Chocolate run yesterday. It was well done. It was organized, and it was easy to see that this had been done on a weekly basis for the last few months. It was quite enjoyable, but I see no point in travelling to another city to experience this again.

If Rock n Roll ever came to town, I would likely take their Half Marathon for a test drive. I doubt that I would travel for it, but I would not avoid either.

As I reread this post, I can see that my initial prejudices are still holding on strong…even though I am having a hard time explaining why…even to myself. Next up…Pittsburgh Marathon (created and curated by the running community of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania). Should be a great day…




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