Maintaining standard practice for making major purchase announcements two weeks prior to the race taking place, (not to mentioned adding to the stress of the RD, which is already on high alert!). The Ironman/ Tarawera guys announced this morning that Ironman has splashed out on another trail race – Tarawera.
First up, congrats to Paul and Tim. They’ve spent ten years of their lives building this thing up (particularly Paul) and like Tom and Alina before them at UTA, it’s a rich reward for their efforts. There’s no doubting Ironman has the capital to build and grow both of these events further. Thus, furthering the growth of our sport. That’s a positive in the overall grand scheme of things.
So, does ownership really matter in the grand scheme of things for us as trail runners?
Yes and no. Ultimately, it comes down to the type of experience you want as a runner.
Cutting through the marketing bullshit pushed out on occasions such as this. Ironman is a business first and foremost. That’s evident in the quotes in the press release “customer-centric”. Sweet Jesus! Here’s a tip, to sound less like a major corporate, the term “runner-focused” would have been a lot more subtle 🙂
And it’s through the little nuances like this that we know one thing. IM is here to make money. And it will do so via its push to be a premium product. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Hey, I run a business too, that cool. And as a runner, if you want all the bells and whistles of a premium product, the people cheering for you on the sidelines. Athlete selfies with the leading runners, a nice big medal, a runner’s pack with sponsor samples and everything else you could dream of, then go for it. Here’s your chance. It’s all good.
This is a pretty major turning point in our sport. But it’s nothing new. It’s happened in many sports through the ages and over the last 20-30 years or so. We shouldn’t be surprised. But what I hope we don’t see as a result of this, is the death of some of our grass root events. The community-led events who struggle as it is. As runners we have a duty to support those guys who’ve given up much of their time to maintain a racing scene and culture for us here in Australia.
There’s a time and place for both styles of races in our sport. For the leading athletes, the growth and impending commercialism is a chance for them to have a serious crack at the ‘professionalism’ of trail and ultra racing. No-one should deny them that. That’s just change, growth and evolvement of our sport.
But as everyday runners, what you should expect is that with commercialism, comes a price. When announcements such as this are made, there’s an awful lot of marketing crap that gets spoken. I’d be pretty certain the single biggest issue discussed around the negotiating table behind the scenes (and drafted into Q&As by the IM team for said spokesperson to deliver), will be the perception of a big corporate taking over little trail running, and of course, future price hikes.
Of course, we hear about how the ‘integrity of the event won’t be compromised’, ‘customer-centricity’, ‘fostering close-knit…’ blah blah blah and for the most part, it won’t be for a few years. But watch this space…
It’s big business. Ironman know that. That’s why they bought the damn thing.
Ultimately as runners however, it comes back to that core question. What experience do you want? What this progression does offer is choice. But choice comes with a price. Growth is good for our sport. Evolvement and development too. Otherwise we remain in a time warp.
But support your local guys too people.
Picture credit: Tarawera Ultra