Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sloppy Journalism

I consider myself a sloppy blogger, so I see it fair to comment on sloppy journalism.

I read this article in the Star Tribune about how Grandma's Marathon has not reached capacity yet.

I laughed and did the old "yell at nobody" in the room. Well, my wife was close enough, so she listened to my rant and rave.

The article states that Grandma's (which has a history of filling the field in 1 week), has still not filled to capacity. 10 Weeks until race day. There was a time when the Dead Runners would post to their group "you need to send your registration request by today, to receive a Grandma's registration form". And, people would send them in THE SAME DAY the received it in the mail. I even knew one guy who would Fed Ex it. Grandma's was a last hold out from internet registration.

I digress....

The author states "without a doubt" the economy is a factor. But, of course, gives nothing to back this up other than the fee being up at $85, and the hotels "increasing their rates for the weekend". I don't know what it was last year, but I recall it being at least $80 3 years agao.

I knew this would more than likely happen after I heard there would be 2 new marathons this spring in the Twin Cities (Stillwater, and Msps), plus a 3rd in LaCrosse.

It's common knowledge that the hotels in Duluth raise their prices as much as they can to cash in on this event. BUT, they still fill up, so obviously somebody is willing to pay for them. Many posters to this articles are taking it out on the hotels, but the reality is, there are a lot of options to those hotels. I ended up camping 2 years and paying $20-$40 for the weekend.

The reality is, 3 new spring marathons ABSOLUTELY create serious competition for Grandma's. Plus, Fargo Marathon is only a few years old, and the Lake Wobegon? marathon is only a few years old (if not, only a year old).

This article is a great example of why newspaper subscriptions are down. The "let's come to a conclusion without doing any research" is epidemic in the industry. The fact that the new marathons were not even mentioned is pretty amazing, and incredibly sad for the Star Tribune. Maybe this should have been printed on the op ed page.

What makes this more comical are the comments. One poster blames Democrats, then the next blames Republicans. Ohhhhhh Pleeeeeeease!

I will agree that the economy has made an impact on marathons, but in a general sense. If one looks at the big picture, all the marathons in the U.S., and factors in their increase in fees, I am guessing registrations will be less this year than last. If any races lose runners, they will most likely be the huge ones (I am speculating, not stating a fact). Chicago accepts 45,000 registrants at $125. Yes, that is up from 40,000 the year they failed to have adequate water and turned it into a "fun run".

Chicago has not filled up...... the economy must be tanking.

I bet if one added up all of the registrants from the Stillwater Marathon, the Minneapolis Marathon, and Grandma's marathon, it would be a net gain compared to just Grandma's last year.

On a brighter note, Chippewa 50k is still taking runners. Now that it is race week, the fee is $55 (that's $1.77 per mile- compared to $4.77 per mile at Chicago). And, you don't have to pay $20 at the McCormick Convention Center Parking to pick up your packet.

Looks like the weather might be a bit warm.


Londell said...

If it was not my 25th year in a row I would not be there either. In 1998 I started drive up the night before and sleep in my car at the DEC, get on the bus, run it, keep running from the finish to the car and go home. The 1/2 also made it so crowded it lost it's charm and fun. For me at least.

Runnin-From-The-Law said...

I think it has more to do with the 2 new marathons than anything. They are so close to it that the couple thousand runners who might have done Grandmas are doing the Mpls and Stillwater ones instead.

Kel said...

Actually, there are 4 new marathons this year (another May 3 in Eau Claire).

If the economy has marathons tanking, there wouldn't be so many new ones!

See you at Chippewa :)

Zach said...

That's pretty funny, that exact same story with the same cause (the economy) was on Kare 11 news a week ago.

However, the hotels are the main reason I don't go. I realize I could camp, but I don't like to go to the trouble when running. It cost me roughly $400 for a hotel last time I did it. If I wanted to run a spring marathon, I certainly would do one of the new local ones. I'm sure plenty of people are of the same mindset. Not to mention, if you've done Grandma's before, the new marathons offer new course, new scenery, etc.

SteveQ said...

Such a shameless plug for your own race! I, for one, applaud.

One of the sad things about the money involved with Grandma's is that now that Andy Holak's trying to get his race started, the city's making demands as if it were the same as Grandma's. They want two on-duty police at every intersection on double-time pay, as it's a weekend.

Steve said...

Actually, the race director says "without a doubt" the economy is effecting registration, not the article's author. Maybe he should have asked if the other races were a factor, too, though.
I had been wondering about the lower number of runners this year, and I'm sure you and others are right - other marathons are probably drawing runners away from Duluth, where hotel rooms are outrageous. Now I just wish some local races would lower their prices because those entry fees are getting out of hand.

toddruns said...

I used to be one of those who filled out the form the minute it arrived and drove immediately to the Post Office. They added the extra slots a few years ago it used to be capped at closer to 7000 or 8000. I noticed that the race did not fill that quickly last year, although they eventually announced that they were done taking registrations. That was without the new local and the WI marathons. I counted 13 opportunities to run 26.2 between now and Grandma's (in MN, WI, and Dakotas). This subject comes up occasionally amongst my running buddies and I think the answer is a combination of the already mentioned increased competition with other races, the hotel fees, and the other wild card at Grandma's lately - the heat. It has been hot the last 4 years at least. Interesting factoid: this is the first year that you could register for both Grandmas and Twin Cities on the same day...

Matthew Patten said...

Hey Londell,

I have a great idea for a follow up article for this guy.

"Runners sleeping in cars.....more evidence of economic hard times"

I might even tip him off to this to see if he would take the bait. How classic would that be?

For those of you who don't know, Londell has a "lifetime entry" to Grandma's. He is one of the few.... proud?

Maybe he can explain in a post on his blog.... how's that for a teaser?

Oh yeah, Ice Age 50 is $90 this year! Kettle 100 mile is only $30 more. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else find the following two sentences more than a little ironic? "This article is a great example of why newspaper subscriptions are down. The 'let's come to a conclusion without doing any research' is epidemic in the industry."

Zach said...

Races, especially marathons, are getting too expensive these days. I haven't even been running that long, but I recall running Grandma's and TC in 2001, and paying around $40-45 for each. Then coming back 5 years later and both had doubled. Where does all the money go? How does a race like Ice Age with fewer runners, fewer sponsors, double the distance, plus food and what not, manage to do it for the same price? And at $90, it's pretty pricey for a 50 mile.

keith said...

Why. Would. Anyone. Pay. To. Run. With. 40,000. Other. People?

On. A. Road?

In. Duluth? When you're 150 feet from a great trail?

Anonymous said...

i agree with Keith. I will pay homage to Grandma's 26.2. It was my first marathon and will always be near and dear to my heart. But there is a point of deminishing returns... I am running Stillwater marathon this year... supporting a hometown race where I work, live, and play. I do not think Grandma's or TCM will have any problem making a profit well into the future, economic woes or not. I am going to stick to the trails, and support the trails parks and habitats of these places. And if I run on roads, I am not going to beg for the opportunity to do so. see you on the trails.
Marine on St. Croix