I had a first-hand experience in what has come to be as a result of commoditization of racing as a for-profit service. I went down to run a race this evening, one of a series of three middle distance (2K, 3K, 1 mile) road races (one per month through the summer) in the 'downtown' area of town. This series has existed, in one form or another, for a decade or so now. The series had been owned by a civic business association which would stage the races in prime business districts to draw more people down there on Thursday evenings during the summer. During their ownership, the races would be staged (organization, timing, course control) by local runners — I knew the race director from training with him. A few years ago the race series was bought by a local triathlon event company (which was recently bought by the group (WTC) that owns the Ironman races). Now I have had some involvement with the races in the series – as a competitor, a volunteer, or simply a fan and observer – most of the years that I have lived here. Each race is a bit of a summer scene for the local running community. Even the corporate Japanese team runners who are training locally have been known to show up for a race or two many years. At any rate, it has seemed to me that the quality of the races themselves has suffered in recent years. This may be a result of the takeover of the organization by a group that are not runners first, but it may be that the races were already declining prior to the sale, which is why they were sold. Either way, they have not improved, that I can tell, with the new ownership.
So getting back to today, I had decided to do race day registration because of the forecast for p.m. thunderstorms for today (which are finally blowing in as I type). I wound up leaving work a bit late and so got to the race staging area later than I had anticipated. I knew that the entry form stated 5:45 as the cut-off time and I got there right around 6. This particular race has four waves, the first one starting at six though the one I would choose would have been either the following (second) wave or the final wave — I would have taken either. The race officials (employees?) were breaking down the race day entry table and I was told, “too late.” Fully my fault, I should just have entered earlier in the week and dealt with whatever the weather brought or made a better effort to get away from work on time. Not a victim, not at all, at least not of anything other than my own poor planning. However, I have this sense that if it were a runner, especially a local I had met in my many years living here, that an exception would more likely have been made and I could have sneaked my entry in really quickly. It just seemed like the attitude was not one of putting on races to serve a community of runners but rather one of running an efficient, businesslike organization. I guess the sense of connection to the running community just is not there. Again, I have no problem with the outcome and should have expected to be turned away (though I was hopeful that they would be gracious in light of my error(s), if not just the $20 bill I was prepared to give them). I just get the sneaking suspicion that it would have been less likely to happen that way were it a fellow runner manning that table and not someone just doing a job.