Focusing on mass participation over elite competition has left the United States with a dull and indistinctive offering of road races, putting competitive running out of the national media spotlight and relegating distance running to the style pages of daily newspapers
"I think there is an overlooked and common problem," said Reavis about how race organizers emphasize participation statistics and charity fundraising over elite competition. He said that he had looked forward seeing another generation of running heroes to follow the sport's 1970's and 1980's legends, only to be repeatedly disappointed.
"We used to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated," said Reavis whose research showed that the last runner to make the cover of S.I. was sprinter Marion Jones in October, 2000. He said that was only because her ex-husband, C.J. Hunter, had been convicted of a doping violation
Reavis also indicted large charity groups which have used running events to their own advantage to raise money for causes which have nothing to do with the sport, while putting almost nothing back into running.
"Even though they are wonderful," he said of big charities like the Leukemia Society's Team in Training program, "what do they have to do with running?"
Instead, Reavis said, distance running organizers should use their events to inspire children to get moving, helping to fight childhood obesity, one of America's top health problems. He encouraged the race directors to partner with existing and successful childhood running programs, like the Mighty Milers created by the New York Road Runners Foundation, which has gotten over 50,000 children running under volunteer coaches. Reavis saw this as a huge opportunity for the sport, to essentially become it's own charity.
"Running speaks directly to that line," said Reavis. "But, we need heroes to make that happen. Part of the job of our industry is to create the hims and the hers that kids want to be."
- Toni Reavis keynote address to wrap up the Road Race Management Race Directors Meeting (from Race Results Weekly)
MY COMMENT: Wow! Very bold statements from a well-respected authority on distance running. I would have liked to have seen the reaction from race directors around the country (The room fell silent at the seriousness of Reavis's charges.)
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