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    Race Overload: Too Much Of A Good Thing?

    Aug 5, 2014
    When told about the deluge of races, a running buddy reacted with a humorously profound 'Parang Shawarma lang iyan,' referring to the market’s tendency to be flooded with the latest trend to the point of saturation, just as it has typically done for
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    IN the past week, two competing triathlon organizations, Ironman and Challenge, on separate dates announced the addition of more 70.3 distance races for 2015. This brings the total number of such races to nine: two each from Ironman and Challenge, and one apiece from Tri United, Ilocos, Tabuelan, Dumaguete, and White Rock (Zambales). Aside from these events, we have (so far) one existing full-distance triathlon called the Enervon Active 226, along with a truckload of standard, sprint, and (for the lack of a better word) alternative distance races scattered across the calendar.

    When told about this latest deluge of races, a running buddy reacted with a humorously profound 'Parang Shawarma lang iyan,' roughly translated as ‘That’s just like Shawarma,’ referring to the market’s tendency to be flooded with the latest trend to the point of saturation, just as it has typically done for food trends like Bubble Tea, Ramen, and yes, Shawarma, though from a not-so-recent memory. And sports are definitely not spared from the bell curve of trends. Remember badminton, tennis, and pelota?

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    For race organizers, this expansion spells more opportunities to accumulate serious coin. For the typical age group triathlete, that’s a whole lot of races to sift through and plan for. The battle is now waged on the registration front as much as on the racecourse, and when the smoke finally clears, the eventual winners will hopefully be the triathletes.

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    Here are ten (10) developments we can expect in the near future for triathlon in the Philippines:

    1. Price Wars – Look for registration fees to drop in the fight for warm bodies to fill the different races and distances. Participants will have to decide with their wallets on which races to join, considering the comprehensive and high cost of travel, lodging, meals, and supplies. Lugging along the entire family will also become a major cost consideration.

    2. Improved Service/Amenities – Race organizers will have to bring their A-Game every time. Mermaids, massages, and fireworks are now par for the course. Who knows what the future brings? Maybe we’ll see mud-wrestling, midget tossing, and team videoke challenges as side events to keep things interesting and provocative. Swag content will also get competitive, as organizers try to outdo each other with freebies and perks. Pre- and post-race activities and parties will become grander and more over-the-top, extraordinary before and after thoughts to races that promise something different from the rest, which leads to…

    3. Race Differentiation – In the end, it all comes down to the race itself. In order to avoid falling into the ‘been there, done that’ quandary, organizers will have to design races that have their unique value proposition. The discriminating set will look to doing races that are more challenging, palpably different, and generally well organized, from the registration process and transition areas to the aid stations and race expositions.

    4. Improved Safety and Security Standards – As a positive consequence of the growth of triathlon races, both in awareness and number, look forward to improvement in the handling of participant and spectator safety and security. With the conduct of each race will come enhancement of standards to ensure the well-being of all concerned, as well as their property, which will strengthen the overall structure of the sport’s foundation and professionalism.

    5. Better Athletes – All this activity is also going to help raise the bar in training and racing, producing faster and stronger athletes in the process. With the help of advancements in technology and coaching, current and newbie athletes will be churning out record performances and knocking it out of the park more than ever.

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    6. New Blood – Aside from children of current triathletes, a mix of the curious, the adventurous, and the bored will find their way to the start line. Others may also come from those who engage exclusively in running, cycling, or swimming, and would like to take it up a notch or two. That’s where aquathlons, duathlons, and other multi-sport variants come in. And though this natural transition has occurred in the past, the heightened awareness for triathlon will lead to record levels of newbies to the sport.

    7. Growth Of Sports In General – Triathletes, though already training and competing in three disciplines, are also known to indulge in other active pursuits that can contribute to making them better. It’s not unusual to find triathletes absorbed in yoga, CrossFit, spinning, weight training, and team sports, showing as much interest and focus in these activities as they are do in swimming, cycling, and running. Triathlon may also influence the growth of relatively new and unconventional sports like upright paddle boarding and sand dune surfing, as triathletes are known to be an adventurous lot.

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    8. Collateral Benefit – On the commercial side, a rise in related and peripheral industries is a given. Some of the upshots include: coaching services, bike fitting/maintenance/sales, training facility use (pools, tracks, gyms), hotel occupancy, retail sales, and retail brand expansion. The economic contribution of triathlon’s growth cannot be discounted due to the comparatively perceptible per capita spending for the sport. A brand new, high-end triathlon bike can approximate the cost of a sub-compact (car), and a considerable percentage of the population has more than one bike.

    9. Domestic Tourism – Relative to points 3 and 7, as triathlon gains more recognition, race organizers will be hard pressed to look for other destinations to attract participants, working with LGUs and local tourism offices to create excitement and spur greater interest in new locations. Such will promote local sports tourism, and spur the provinces, cities, towns, and barangays involved to consider alternative sources of economic opportunity, and possibly redirect local government funding into developing better sports facilities, accommodations, and the like.

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    10. Market Correction – As with any emerging entity, triathlon’s popularity and place as a sport in the Philippines will undergo a correction phase. Running, with its substantially lower cost of everything compared to triathlon, has experienced such a rectification, after enjoying an explosion in popularity and race participation over the past five years. I predict a three- to five-year period for the sport to right size itself, fueled by race fatigue of newbies and veterans alike by the third year. Weariness will come from both physical and financial challenges to the triathletes who will themselves learn to be pragmatic with their training, racing, and spending. The practical economics of return on investment by race organizers will also figure as a major consideration.

    All told, the confluence of the above factors will result in more winners than losers, and should yield better quality races with the passage of time. It will provide the community with continuous improvement of standards based on experience and expectations, and should elevate the overall profile of the sport and all those involved in its conduct, promotion, and practice.

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    And similar to what’s happened with running, triathlon is expected to generate stickiness, retaining more individuals who will choose to stay than leave - out of love for the sport, in order to stay fit, to take back their lives, or all of the above.

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    When told about the deluge of races, a running buddy reacted with a humorously profound 'Parang Shawarma lang iyan,' referring to the market’s tendency to be flooded with the latest trend to the point of saturation, just as it has typically done for
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