Take a look at the photo above. If you look right in the middle, you will see yours truly. I’m the guy with the black compression socks and the orange arm warmers. This photo was taken at the Chicago marathon. The spectators you see lining the streets were there the whole way. There wasn’t anywhere through out the course that there was a lack of people cheering for us from the sidewalk. The fans were great and supportive but as you probably already know, it’s not always like this.
So with the U.S. Olympic marathon trials coming up this weekend, it made me ponder just how popular american distance running is. Distance running is a popular sport, however it is a niche sport. It’s a pastime but it’s not America’s pastime. It doesn’t have the passionate following of baseball and football but people do come out to watch.
I plan to watch the trials on the internet but I know most people won’t. Why? Because it’s not violent. It’s not full contact. It’s not action packed and it’s not flashy. From a spectator’s point of view, I can see how it would be hard to watch.
The 100 meter sprint is exciting to watch. Who doesn’t like to see Usain Bolt blow the doors off his competition? However, distance racing, from the spectator point of view, is not exciting. We don’t jump out of our seats when someone in the pack makes a break. Distance runners don’t talk trash. They don’t run out of a tunnel with blaring music, smoke and pyrotechnics and they don’t chant like Drew Bree’s and the Saint’s before the gun goes off. It is what it is. The only people I know that get excited about distance racing are distance runners. But before you decide to settle that our sport isn’t spectator sport, take a look at these numbers.
The most popular 10K in the country, the Peachtree Road Race, has more than 100,000 spectators. The average attendance for an Atlanta Falcons home game in 2010 was 68,986.
The 2010 Boston Marathon had over 500,000 thousand spectators. The average attendance for a Boston Celtic’s home game in the same year was 18,624.
The 2010 Chicago marathon had 1,500,000 spectators. The average attendance for a Chicago Cubs home game in 2010 was 35,028.
The numbers have to be put in perspective. These races are once a year events and they often take place throughout most of the city but still, those numbers are pretty impressive. People are interested. People want to watch. People do show up.
How is the spectator turn out during your races?