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November 16. 2013 1:17AM

Andy Schachat's On the Run: Communities reap economic benefits from road races


 

ON Oct. 5, more than 4,500 runners and walkers completed the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon/Half Marathon in Hampton.

Despite rainy, cold and windy conditions, the cliche, "a good time was had by all," seemed to apply to the event, which was one of the largest in New Hampshire road race history.

Everyone associated with the race - runners, walkers, volunteers, spectators and staff - appeared to be pleased with the event.

Unfortunately the same could not be said for others who live in Hampton.The Smuttynose Rockfest race took place two weeks after a very unfortunate incident in Hampton.

On Sept. 21, two cyclists were killed while riding their bikes in Hampton as part of a big cycling event in New Hampshire.

The tragedy, coupled with the size of Smuttynose Rockfest, has left some citizens in Hampton believing events like road races and cycling events should be limited in their town.

While thousands of people celebrated their participation in the Smuttynose Rockfest races, others in Hampton saw the event as nothing more than a nuisance and inconvenience.

Within days of the half marathon/marathon event, town selectmen received complaints that the roads of Hampton had been tied up for too long and trash had been left behind.

One proposal presented to town officials is having road races limited to being no longer than 10K (6.2 miles), much shorter than a half marathon (13.1 miles) or marathon (26.2 miles).The current debate in Hampton is being played out in many communities around the country.

The growth of road races in America is being met with disdain from citizens who live in communities that are seeing some of that growth.

Now, the disclaimer.

For a variety of reasons, the New Hampshire road race scene is important to me.

It is obvious where I stand on this issue, not just in the general sense of what is happening throughout the United States but specifically what has happened, and is happening in Hampton.

For me, the argument in favor of big road races is an easy one to make.

Can I be objective? Perhaps not, but it doesn't change what I think and feel.In Hampton's case the cycling accident can not be compared to the concerns and complaints some Hampton residents have about Smuttynose Rockfest.

The deaths of the two bikers is an unthinkable tragedy, but it does not reflect what takes place at a major road race.

If Hampton folks are unhappy about Smuttynose Rockfest it is unfair to tie those complaints to what happened during the cycling event.

What it comes down to is weighing the benefits of a road race against the inconvenience of some of the citizens of the community that hosts the race.

If I hadn't started running in 1991, maybe I would lean more heavily on the side of the complainers.

Because I completed my first road race more than 20 years ago, I easily fall on the other side of the issue.

The advantages are easy for me to see.I am told that hundreds of people traveled a long distance to get to Hampton for Smuttynose Rockfest, with "long distance" being measured as more than a three-hour drive.

The implication is that hundreds probably spent at least one night in Hampton, or the Hampton area, staying at hotels and motels.

In some cases, those folks traveled with family and friends and spent money at local restaurants and shops.

The financial impact on Hampton probably generated thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars for the town.

There are not currently any numbers to share but race organizers are researching to find out the specific totals.In many cases, large races serve as major fundraisers for charitable events and Smuttynose Rockfest is no different.

The race organizers, LOCO Sports, donate tens of thousands of dollars to local charities because of LOCO Sports races.

But, to this member of the running community, the biggest argument in favor of road races is simple: cooperation, consideration and hospitality.

There are many towns and cities across America that love hosting big races.

Why? The real question is, why not? Why not roll out the red carpet and show off the place where you live? Why not put out the welcome mat and enjoy a day that celebrates fitness, health and accomplishment? It is worth noting that the number of complaints is very small when measured against the amount of people in Hampton who seem happy with the Smuttynose Rockfest event.It is impossible to measure inconvenience.

It is not fun, to say the least, when one has to to take detours because access to certain roads is limited.

Perhaps, if I had never laced up running shoes, I would join the march on my city hall if my town was inundated by thousands of strangers who have ruined my day.

But, to me, the dye is cast and the answer to this puzzle is clear as day.The positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
 
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Running shorts: How about the week that Portsmouth's Andrew Huebner had from Nov. 3-10? Huebner finished second at the Anthem Manchester City Half Marathon on Nov. 3, and won the Seacoast Half Marathon, in Portsmouth, a week later. Megan Nedlo of Salem, Mass., was the women's winner of the Seacoast Half Marathon. ... Coming up in a about a week and a half will be New Hampshire's biggest road race day, Thanksgiving Day. ... There are so many races in so many communities in the Granite State and neighboring communities in Vermont and Massachusetts, that there is absolutely no excuse for missing a race on that day. It will help the turkey, stuffing and all the pies taste a whole lot better.

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


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