Written by: Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date: January 7, 2013
What is a Runner?
The answer may appear obvious, but if you take into account target markets, products, literature, media, sociology, economics, and other non-athletic factors that define what a runner is, you’d be surprised at the complexities of such a question.
I know I was.
I consider myself a runner. I’ve been involved in organized Track & Field for over 19 years. I’ve competed all over the US among the best. I have a cabinet full of trophies, medals, and plaques. I can read a runner’s style and determine what areas of their body are weakest and how they can improve. I coach track. I train people who run. I am currently running on a team and plan to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games. Yet, I am not considered a “Runner” according to business and socio-economics.
Apparently, the title “Runner” has been attributed to those individuals who run 5K or more. Runners run long distances. Runners do not have to be athletic, they just have to be willing to run for long periods of time. Runners participate in competitive events like 5Ks or the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, but never intend to win or compete.
Runners run for leisure and uphold the philosophies set back in 1896 by their Yale elitist forefathers who propagated sports are a leisurely and charitable activity. Those who have leisure time are part of a unique prestigious group of upperclassmen.
Business loves to cater to this group. If you go into a sporting goods store, most of the shoes are cushioned at the heel for long distance running rather than mid or short. If you go into Barnes & Noble, most of the books featuring running are written for non-competitive long distance runners. If you Google running, you’ll run into articles targeting the needs of long distance runners. Leisure runners make up well over 90% of running. Of the runners who compete in the LA Marathon only maybe 20 men and women combined actually compete for the gold. The remaining 1,000,000+ run just to run. As the powers that be say, the majority wins. The majority defines who is and who is not a runner.
So what am I according to the Majority? I am a track & field athlete that runs.
(No matter how much I study the leisure runner, I may never understand him/her. The impact of the leisure runner is powerful and affects the composition of track & field. Yet he/she does not understand his/her relationship to the sport or why he/she runs long distances under an ancient Ivy League philosophy. My objective is to build spectatorship, increase athlete retention, and boost the marketability of track & field. To meet these objectives, I need Runners- track & field or otherwise- to help build the sport. The task ahead is great).