On Your Marks: Run Shows Set to Debut in U.S. Next Year
Raccoon Events is built upon the guiding principle that runners slow down to walk trade show aisles and — dare to dream, sit — for inspirational keynotes. Having successfully launched two run shows in the United Kingdom, where the health- and wellness-minded company is based, it is time to step across the pond.
Run Show USA, as the American version is dubbed, is off to a brisk pace planning for 2022. Its initial show will debut Jan. 29-30 at Hynes Convention Center in Boston, and a second event at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Chicago was recently announced for June 4-5. A third stop is in the works, added Nathalie Davies, group director for Run Show USA.
The scheduling of the two shows reveals Raccoon’s strategy. Both events are deliberately scheduled months before the cities’ premier marathons. The idea is that participants in the Boston Marathon, for example, are not going to have the time, energy or desire during race weekend to spend engaging with exhibitors about new apparel and other related goods.
“We discovered there was a real hole in the market,” Davies said.
The first Run Show backed up their belief. About 9,000 attendees and 100 spectators converged on Birmingham, England, for the first event in 2019. The numbers more than doubled in January 2020, the last show held before COVID forced a break in the action.
Davies said initial findings show the American events are on track for a similar initial showing. The events are getting off on the right foot in terms of speakers and attached partners.
Retailer Marathon Sports will be responsible for bringing in major brands ASICS, HOKA ONE ONE, Altra, Runderwear, Feetures, Smartwool, Caldera and PRO Compression. The speaker lineup includes sports/running icons like Joe De Sena, Dave McGillivray, Chris Kostman, Carl Lewis, Dean Karnazes, Susie Chan, Kelly Roberts and Camille Herron.
Many of those same speakers will appear at the Chicago show, which has attracted Fleet Feet as an integral partner.
Run Show USA’s model launches at a time when many trade show and meeting experts say regional shows will be popular. Davies expects most of the Boston show’s attendance to come from New England, with the Chicago event to draw from Midwestern destinations within a two to three hour drive.
While marathons are arguably the most marquee of races, the events “are for all runners,” said Davies, who used the U.K. lockdown to graduate from 5Ks to half-marathons. “We've got such a spectrum of runners and they are all interested in different things.”
The content, goods and tight-knit community are expected to be the driving factors for attendance. The cost is $15 to stroll along the floor and watch the speakers. In the U.K., visitors have spent an average of five to six hours on the showfloor, Davies said.
No races will be attached to the expos, though it’s hard to imagine that no groups will go for a pre- or post-show run. An indoor track around the trade show is impractical because it blocks the emergency exits, Davies added.
Ultimately, Run Show USA expects to have five American events. But it’s not a sprint to get there.