The Interval, 1/31/17

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Nothing to report from this past week in terms of local races.  It was a beautiful weekend for running.  Saturday morning was cold and clear, a perfect day for a long run in the Barton Creek Greenbelt.  These pictures are of the TrailRoots gang on the Rattlesnake loop.
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I usually run early on Sunday, but slept in and started at 11am.  It was busier on Town Lake Trail than at my normal 7am, but interesting to see a different kind of crowd:  more dogs, strollers, and bikes.
The big item of discussion among my friends was the closure, at least temporarily, of the Luke’s Locker store on North Lamar.  Luke’s closed several of their stores and filed for bankruptcy protection in order to reorganize inventory, leases, and other expenses.  It’s possible that the Austin store will reopen.  The story sounds familiar- the costs of a brick and mortar running store are too high to compete with online businesses.  This is just the latest in a line of running store failures near Lady Bird Lake:  RunTex, Hill Country Running, Texas Running Company.  Rogue Running is now the only running store within an easy jog of Town Lake Trail.
All of these store failures made me wonder about the demographics of running.  I found a source, Running USA, that conducts surveys and analyzes data in this area.  Their results suggest that the road running boom may have peaked in 2013.  The numbers of entrants in road races fell in each of 2014 and 2015.  Another source indicates that participation in trail races is still increasing.
If true, these trends could be similar to what’s happened with the racing scene in Austin.  With increased red tape and expenses from local governments we’ve lost some big races:  IBM 10K, Rogue Distance Festival, Chuy’s 5K, Texas Roundup, and others.  At the same time the number of trail races in the Hill Country area has increased, with new races by Tejas Trails and new race companies like Spectrum Trail Racing and Trail Roots.  We even have a running store focused on trails:  Austin Trail Running Company.
The numbers of people racing might not indicate the number of people running or that need running shoes, but it could be part of the reason why a running store is an increasingly tough business.  I’m sure the main reason is competition from online stores.  I, like many experienced runners, generally go to a local store when I need a new type of shoe so I can get expert advice and fitting.  I’ll buy online if I’m simply replacing a worn out pair.  With slim profit margins already, how can a store compete with online discounters?  The success of Rogue Running is surely tied to the large and successful training group portion of the business.  My guess is that the formula for Ready to Run is cheap rent, working owners, and carefully selected inventory.  I plan to make more of my purchases from our local stores.  We need them.
Austin will be well-represented this Saturday at the Beppu Marathon in our sister city of Oita, Japan.  Hannah Steffan and Erik Stanley will run the race as good will ambassadors.  Hannah was 3rd (unofficially) at the 2014 Austin Marathon, second in 2015, and fourth in 2016.  Erik is back in racing shape after battling injuries for a couple years.  He won the Bandera 25K and was fourth at the 3M half marathon earlier this month.
Interesting articles:
I followed the results and read some summary articles about the World Marathon Challenge.  7 marathon, 7 continents, 7 days.  Wow.  32 people finished the event this year.  Each of them paid about $40K to compete, which included a chartered jet, accommodations and carbon offsets.  The winner was the amazing Michael Wardian.  He ran each marathon in less than 3 hours, including a 2:54 on a glacier in Antarctica and a 2:42 at nearly 100 degrees in Dubai.  His marathon in Antarctica is the fastest ever on that continent.  Coverage from Runner’s World.
I’ve run a bit in Northern England and Scotland and would like to go back and try some of the races.  This long article on iRunFar was interesting, describing the years of enjoyable running and racing of the author and his current struggle to return following a serious injury.
I’ll read anything from David Roche in TrailRunner magazine and this article is great.  I’m putting together plans for 2017 races and his views on the general principles of training for ultras is very timely.
Upcoming races:
Not much on the roads again this weekend.  People training for the Austin Marathon should have done their last super long run and are about to get into the trials and tribulations of “The Taper” in anticipation of the race on February 19th. Remember, you really don’t need that last tempo run 2 days before the race….
The area trail runners will be in Huntsville this weekend for the 25th Anniversary edition of the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler.  This is regarded as an “easy” hundo, if such a thing exists.  There isn’t much elevation change, but there are twists and roots that seem to cause more problems the longer you are out there.  Rocky generally attracts a fast crowd, both for the USATF 100 mile trail championship and for the prospect of a Western States 100 golden ticket.  The long range forecast calls for warm rain…
I’m still planning to publish The Interval as an email newsletter, sign up in case I figure out how anytime soon…

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