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March 30. 2013 7:51PM

Andy Schachat's On the Run: Would an Easter or Christmas road race work in Granite State?


 
It happens twice a year. By coincidence, today is one of those days.

As the world celebrates Easter Sunday, I find myself wondering about this special day. Two of America's holidays, July 4th and Thanksgiving, are the two biggest days for road races in this country. Other holidays, New Year's Day and Labor Day, are growing in popularity for races. For obvious reasons, there are two holidays, Easter and Christmas, that are devoid of races. So, today I ask the question I ask every Easter and Christmas: Would the running community support races on those days?

Whenever I ask this question of my running friends, the answer is usually: No, a race on either day would not succeed. Most people tell me, sure, a handful of folks would show up, but nothing would work on a larger scale. I respond with the idea that because the road race scene seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, I am not sure a road race held on Easter or Christmas would fail.

Full disclosure: I grew up in a home that did not observe either holiday. I appreciate, however, how important - how sacred - Easter and Christmas are to the majority of folks around me. It is why I understand why many are hesitant to think a road race on Easter or Christmas would draw decent numbers.

So, what makes me think an Easter or Christmas race would work? A number of reasons.

First, holidays mean different things to different people. There are many who don't observe certain holidays or don't put a great deal of significance into the observances. Even those who enjoy spending holiday time with their families might spend only a part of the day celebrating the holiday. There may be plenty of people who would gladly start the day at a race, with or without family members.

When talking about Christmas, some runners have said an afternoon race might work.

Then there are the other events that take place on Christmas and Easter.

Over the past few years, Christmas Day seems to have been taken over by the National Basketball Association. There are now five nationally televised games on Christmas. Why is that significant? Take a look at the numbers. For the past couple of years, there has been an NBA game that started at noon in New York City. The game is sold out, meaning an attendance of 20,000. That means thousands of people decided to celebrate Christmas by attending a basketball game. With a start time of noon that means those folks left their homes in the morning.

As for Easter, today is a big day for college basketball and college hockey as both sports hold their NCAA tournaments. In other words, Easter and Christmas are days on which tens of thousands of people attend sporting events. Wouldn't it stand to reason a few hundred would attend a road race?

It should be noted that these sporting events take place in large metropolitan areas. In those areas, there not only are large population bases, increasing the chance for a larger turnout, but also a diverse population of people who define holidays in different ways.

That said, the idea of an Easter or Christmas road race does raise a personal concern: It would be hard to get volunteers, the lifeblood of any quality race, to participate.

For the record, there are a few races in this country on Christmas and Easter. On Christmas, there is a 5K in Vernon, Conn., and one in St. Paul, Minn. Both races typically draw between 200 and 300 runners. In the spirit of the holiday, both events serve as fund-raisers. The race organizer of the St. Paul race also puts on a 5K on Easter.

To be clear: I'm not advocating that a race be held on either Christmas or Easter. While, as noted, I don't observe Easter or Christmas, I appreciate the significance of those two days and how sacred they are. I am merely observing that the popularity of races on holidays has never been tested locally on Easter or Christmas and acknowleding that conventional wisdom says there is good reason why races aren't held on either day.

I'm not sure I agree.




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RUNNING SHORTS: Spectacular day in Manchester one week ago when more than 2,700 finished the Shamrock Shuffle 2-mile road race ... Speaking of spectacular, next Sunday, hundreds will run the Great Bay Half Marathon and Beyond the Rainbow 5K in Newmarket. On Saturday, April 6, the State Employees Association 5K takes place in Concord. It is the second race of the 2013 Capital Area Race Series. ... Disappointing news on the New Hampshire triathlon scene: The Newfound Lake Triathlon, scheduled for June 1 and June 2 in Bristol, has been canceled. Low sign-ups were the reason. This race was supposed to replace the Mooseman Triathlon Festival, which had been held for years in Bristol on the first weekend of June ... Congrats to Litchfield's Bill Spencer, the state record keeper and longtime member of the Gate City Striders. Spencer, 77, won gold in the 3,000 meters and 1-mile runs at the 2013 USA Masters National Indoor Track and Field Championships, held in Landover, Md., March 22-24.


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

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