Running USA CEO Update: June 2018

Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger shares an update on all the exciting things happening at the trade organization for the sport of road running

Where has the year gone? We are nearly halfway through 2018 and in about eight months we will again host the world’s largest running industry conference in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico – looking forward to seeing you there Feb. 10-12, 2019!

Since our 2018 conference in February, the Running USA team and board of directors have been busy serving members and working to improve the organization.

Research and Data

Many of you have been anticipating our annual State of Sport race result and trends reports for the 2017 year. No one is more eager to release these annual statistics more than us. Recently, we announced that our methodology and approach to these important findings has changed and some reports will no longer be available. Running USA has been reporting on the trends in our industry since our inception and over time, we’ve relied on a number of sources to help reflect the health of running. I am excited to share that a look at the health of the industry will be available soon.

Rather than reporting on finisher numbers compiled mostly from a single source, we have been working with four registration companies (and many individual events) to report entry data. Using multiple sources provides a more robust information base and we believe also allows us to report on the general financial health of the industry. Those who cross a finish line is the most conservative statistic and does not accurately represent trends in the sport. While this has not been an easy task, we encourage you to review the reports and certainly welcome your questions. We will continue to evolve our processes and share much more as we move throughout the year.

New Website and Member Portal

By the end of July, Running USA will convert to a new membership management platform and public-facing website. The change to a fully integrated platform has required extensive work from our team to bring over all of our organizational data and records. However, we are excited to get everyone using the new system, which will streamline the billing and remittance process, offer a members-only area for content and communications, a secure online purchasing platform, and much more. It will also provide responsive design so all content will be available and easy to engage with on all screen sizes. Look for all the details to hit your inbox early next month.


Late in 2017, Running USA was the first organization to offer members discounted group music licensing fees to both ASCAP and BMI. I am proud to again remind members that earlier this year we again used our collective bargaining power to strike a similar partnership with Global Music Rights, a third licensing company. If your event is playing popular music, we encourage you to proactively purchase the rights. Nowhere else can you get such great deals and the process is simple.

Spring is a busy time for events, large and small; and the Running USA team has been on the road helping where we can. We helped celebrate milestone event anniversaries in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, co-hosted a reception for our members with MYLAPS in Boston, and had informal member meet-ups in Cleveland, Fort Worth and Los Angeles. We are finalizing fall travel schedules now.

Last year was unofficially referred to as “the year of membership” by our Board of Directors. I am pleased to report that we continue to add more new members each month. Brian Lyons, our membership director, is working tirelessly to on-board companies like the North Olympic Discovery Marathon, On Board Experiential Marketing, and the Chicago Area Runners Association, as well as to be responsive to your requests and inquiries. If we can be of help, please reach out.


Providing world-class education and content is central to providing meaningful and relevant benefit to our members. Feedback from the Industry Conference has given our conference planning committee tons of ideas and inspiration for next February. If you have specific thoughts on topics or suggestions for speakers, panelists or moderators, please submit them here. In the meantime, we continue to work on ways to provide you opportunities outside of the annual conference. Christine Bowen, our VP of programming, operations and partnerships has again worked with Race Roster to bring six, half-day workshops focused on sponsorship and marketing to a city near you. Known as the Accelerator Series, these four-hour, informal intensives provide attendees with the opportunity to learn from the best and casually network in smaller environments. To learn more and sign up go here.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for an in-person session, we’ve also partnered with imATHLETE on a series of approximately 45-minute long, interactive webinars focused on data insights. Last month, nearly 100 of you participated in our first discussion and we’re again using feedback to help drive future discussions. Mark your calendar for the next webinar on Aug. 7 and look for upcoming dates and topics in our biweekly newsletters, and if your company is interested in unique partnerships, please reach out directly to Christine.

Global Reach

You may recall hearing about the growing interest in Running USA from events and businesses outside of the United States; those attending the conference in Austin, may even recall hearing a number of accents in and around the sessions. This trend continues as we welcome members from all over the world.

As our name suggests, our primary focus is here in the States, however, the growing appeal of our mission to those beyond the borders cannot be ignored. Last April, in partnership with Virgin Sport at their London headquarters (photo above), we co-hosted a first-of-its-kind reception for UK event directors with much success. We also were invited to be part of a luncheon hosted by our conference title sponsor, the ACTIVE Network, and used the opportunity to build new contacts and deepen conversations with current members.

We also recently announced a formal partnership with Mass Participation Asia to help with their annual congress/summit taking place in Singapore later this year. We are working with MPA on a joint research project similar to our annual National Runner Study where we will report on comparable trends of running between the US and Asia. Learn more and sign up here. We will continue to keep you informed of our involvement across the globe as opportunities present themselves.

Board of Directors Update

Our governance and elections committee has also been busy working to review, vet and recommend our new slate of directors. Thank you for participating in the process. The entire roster of board members can be found here. This group will be meeting in-person at the end of July where we will discuss many things including the overall strategic plan of Running USA. This annual meeting also allows for discussion of ideas, opportunities to improve and for the staff to provide updates and receive feedback from our leaders. If you have any topic you’d like discussed, please let us know.

As you can see, there is a lot going on both behind the scenes and out front. It is our mission to help grow the sport and to help you grow your business. Please keep us updated on your progress and if there is anything else we can do to help you achieve your goals.

Looking forward to seeing you in historic San Juan in February or on the road before then.