The LA Times recently announced the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (a popular racing series owned by the Competitor Group) was now going to have a home in Los Angeles. The group bought the City of Angels Half Marathon, a small and fledging race whose last breath will be this December 6, 2009. Running a similar course, its debut will be next October 2010.
This Los Angeles Rock + Roll half will be the 14th in the series of RnR races. I have yet to experience one (Vegas will be my first) and from what I know there are two very divided camps: One thing they seem to have going for them is that they are a well-oiled organizational machine. This is a big feat to pull off for any racing event producer, let alone have a reputation for. Don’t get me wrong, I love an easy to run race: cool freebies, easy to get to, entertainment on the course, B-List celebrity MCs and a professionally designed logo on a tech tee… I’ll be happy as a clam.
Even so, the indie rock chick in me just can’t shake her initial feeling that the Competitor Group may be “THE MAN” and this year’s TWO race acquisitions (the Denver Marathon will also debut as an RnR race in 2010) is only furthering the threat of homogenizing marathon racing experiences across the country. Would I travel to run a marathon or a half marathon? Hell yes! But not if they’re all coming with the same cookie cutter song and dance. That’s just like pop music people!
When I ran the inaugural Malibu International Marathon we had a late start, one of the buses from the point to point path got stuck in the parking lot and the mile markers on the course looked like they were drawn up by eight-year-olds (they were actually “designed” by a local youth organization). The expo at Zuma Beach looked like it was a high school bake sale. I’ll admit it, “hokey” would be the best way to describe the feeling. And it.was.awesome!
I would hate to see a cool and unique race that has a lot of special charm and real community involved (like the little old grandmas who hand out orange slices at the Chinatown Firecracker 10K Run) come to economic hardship where they would literally have to “sell-out” and be bought by a bigger organization like the Competitor Group – who are successful only due to their marketing savvy in drawing a crowd but may fail in delivering the depth that a smaller “indie race” might (kind of like how you feel a little empty after listening to the new Kelly Clarkson album but hum along anyway).
That being said, I would urge you to make sure that you are doing what you can to support your favorite local races in spreading the word about how great the course is, how amped the crowd got you and how deserving the local charity groups are for the donations and help given to them as a result. When you think of all the blood sweat and tears that go into what happens before the gun goes off… for that one sweet moment of euphoria of crossing the finish line – it’s not too much to ask. Just a thought.