The "Big Tent"--it's a concept we're more accustomed to hearing in the political arena, not the sporting arena. Traditionally, it refers to the powerful political force that results from gathering many different points of view under one umbrella in an effort to move a platform forward.
It's also a philosophy and a strategy that should be embraced by the sport of running, and one which many of our peers in other sports have long since adopted. It's also a philosophy quite fitting with the aspects of our sport that make us most unique and today and more relevant than ever.
Running and track and field have historically been fragmented, so much so that I sometimes wonder if it's part of the DNA of our sport. This fragmentation has occasionally been good for us, as the wide-open landscape has allowed us to grow far beyond the storied track stadium and for road races and big-city marathons to flourish. We have created major events, many of which annually build up to--and benefit--the quadrennial Olympic Games. And the growth of road racing has had huge health and fitness benefits to millions of people.
However, somewhere along the way our sport, as a whole, was left in the dust by our peers in the more developed global sports platforms--football, soccer, tennis, golf, basketball, baseball--which managed to rise above the challenges of geography, teams, leagues, and associations and, in the process, allow a context and symmetry to their games and events to evolve. They created phenomenal platforms, beyond any one major event or "team," for corporate sponsors and broadcast partners and exciting series and playoffs to intensify fan interest, further enhancing and broadening their appeal to a variety of audiences and adding value for their sponsors and partners.
Yet, there are ways in which our sport is strides ahead. While the "business" of the sport has not yet united in the manner of an NFL or NBA, the tent has been huge and wide open in welcoming "players." We are a uniquely participatory sport that has the ability to help adults and children of all abilities in a tremendously positive and powerful manner beyond inspiring them as fans. No other sport (perhaps soccer is closest) has such a big tent when one talks about participation beyond professional athletes. We have become as much social movement as sport between our vast outreach to individuals and the seriousness with which we take our social responsibility as we run through towns and cities around the world.
So, it is my hope that a "big tent" approach will become more and more an operating philosophy for our industry. From the Diamond League in track & field to the World Marathon Majors in distance running, how do we keep growing beyond ourselves and growing together?
As the sport of the people, this is our moment to seize upon.
Today, National Running Day, is an important example of the power of collaboration. Today, in towns throughout the United States and in nations beyond, major organizations within the running industry join forces in a unified effort to promote running as a healthy, simple, and accessible form of exercise. From New York to San Diego, the day will celebrate the benefits of running as part of a lifestyle aimed at combating some of today's most pressing health issues.
The goal of National Running Day is simple: get everyone moving. It's a chance to open the tent wide. I invite everyone to join us. Take the first step and help someone else do the same. Learn more at www.runningday.org.
Another "Big Tent" day will be Saturday, June 12, in New York City, when New York Road Runners (NYRR) will stage the 39th NYRR New York Mini 10K, the world's original and longest-running all-women road race, and will support Global Athletics Management as they present the Adidas Grand Prix track meet at Icahn Stadium featuring champions of our amazing sport. We're calling it the Super Saturday of Running.
As an industry, the time has come for us to unite, at the very least in messaging and support of each other and eventually, and ideally, in other more significant ways. In the end, those of us who love running are all ambassadors, united in purpose, and we must work together to pull back the tent flaps so that all people can join in.