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February 02. 2013 10:04PM

Andy Schachat On the Run: Firms successful running NH races


 
On Feb. 10, a new three-mile race, the Snowflake Shuffle 5K, will take place in Bedford. Two weeks later, a race that is entering its sixth year, the Half at the Hamptons Half Marathon, will take place in Hampton. Both races are sold out, the Snowfalke Shuffle at 1,000 entries and the Half At the Hamptons at about 1,400 entries. That means two New Hampshire races taking place in the middle of winter will be among the largest in the state in 2013. If that fact seems remarkable, it is. Winter is supposed to be a time for training, not a time for racing. So, why the change? Upon closer review it is not an accident, or coincidence, that these two races will be as large as they are.

Both races have one thing in common: They are being managed by the two most prominent race management companies in the Granite State. Millennium Running is producing the Snowflake Shuffle while LOCO Sports is putting on the Half at the Hamptons. In the past two years no race management company or other organization has put on as many major races in New Hampshire as Millennium or LOCO. In 2012, the two companies were responsible for nine New Hampshire races that each had more than 1,000 finishers, more than one-third of the total number of New Hampshire races that had over 1,000 finishers last year.

To state the obvious, Millennium Running and LOCO Sports have earned reputations for putting on first-class events, as evidenced by the size of their races. So, when one of the two companies puts on a new race, as Millennium is with the Snowflake Shuffle, people flock to the event. When the other company, LOCO, brings back a first class event, like Half At The Hamptons, the numbers continue to be big.

What is interesting about the success of Millennium Running and LOCO Sports is that for the most part they attract different types of runners. Most of the Millennium races are shorter distances, one mile to 5K. LOCO Sports produces five half-marathons and one marathon.

The different distances that the two companies focus on means different marketing strategies to attract runners. Most of Millennium Running's races are Manchester-based and appeal to the "participation not competition" mentality that is very strong in the running community. The operative word for Millennium Running's events is fun. How else to explain thousands of participants running up and down Elm Street in Manchester decked out in Santa suits at the Santa Shuffle or the hundreds who ran in kilts at the Halfway to St. Patrick's Day 5K last September? It is no coincidence that two of Millennium's races coincicide with parades in the city of Manchester.

This approach has brought thousands out to Millennium races. The appeal is to run, or walk, enjoy what you are doing, and have a good time. That is best accomplished with shorter distances.

On the other hand, the approach is different in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire, where many of the LOCO Sports races take place. Yes, LOCO puts on a couple of fun shorter distances, but the signature events for the company are the half-marathons and marathon.

The state of New Hampshire is not big enough to support large longer-distance races on its own. In order for LOCO to get the numbers they have been getting, the race has to be able to draw runners from other New England states and beyond. That means hundreds and even thousands of runners must be willing to travel to get to places like Hampton and Newmarket to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Runners will only do that if it is worth their time and effort. That means the race better be first class. Apparently the LOCO Sports races are getting two thumbs up from the entire New England running community. The half marathons are turning people away and one of them, the Smuttynose Rockfest Half, set a New Hampshire record for the largest half marathon ever, when more than 3,000 showed up last September.

Millennium Running and LOCO Sports have hit on something. The two companies realize the bar has been raised on the local racing scene. In order to separate themselves they must be able to provide what other races aren't providing. That's why the two companies continue to produce many of New Hampshire's top events.

Even if that means racing in the winter.



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RUNNING SHORTS: Winners of last weekend's Boston Prep 16 Miler: Scott McGrath of North Andover, Mass.,and Stephanie Reilly of Northbridge, Mass. ... Mark Hecox of Henniker and Liz Johnstone of Weare won the Henniker Hot Chocolate 5K on Jan. 27. ... Jim Johnson of Madison continues to be the best snowshoe racer in the state. He added the Sidehiller Four Miler to an already impressive list of snowshoe wins in 2012.



Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at schachat44@gmail.com.

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