Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Alison Wade
One race accuses another of copying its course.
Ken Nwadike Jr., Superhero Events’ chief running officer and marketing director for the USA Half Marathon, says only five miles are run on the exact roads. Analysis by Runner’s World Newswire indicates that the overlap is closer to Briggs’ count—about 8 miles. Briggs also says that the two courses run through 11 of 12 of the same neighborhoods, which means they will have similar vibes.
“A race is a route and a route is the race,” Briggs wrote in a statement toRunner’s World Newswire. “There is an unwritten rule among race directors that you should not substantially copy another’s race route or vibe, something all 17 half marathons in the San Diego County have respected until now.”
Briggs says that there is plenty of real estate in San Diego—enough that there is not too much overlap among the existing half marathons in the county. Nwadike disagrees.
“When designing a route, there are certain streets that just don’t work for road closures at all, and so the city makes their suggestions,” Nwadike told Newswire. “That is why almost all of the half marathons that exist in San Diego, their race courses overlap in some capacity. There are only so many ways to get from point A to point B.”
Phil Stewart, the editor and publisher of Road Race Managementnewsletter and event director of the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in Washington, D.C., says that the sport is generally laissez-faire with these issues. “It’s a little bit of the Wild West out there,” he says.
Stewart points out that there is no one organization that oversees when and where clubs and companies put on races.
“The organizations that you would look to do that would be USATF or the Road Runners Club of America, and they don’t,” Stewart says. “There are no rules in place that say promoter B can’t do a race. Really the strongest factor that might control this are the municipalities themselves.”
Scott Robinson, a public information officer for the City of San Diego wrote in an email to Newswire that the city does not limit the number of special event permits that are given out each year, nor do they evaluate permit applications in comparison to other permit applications.
“Many events seek similar attributes in their venue or route design, such as an iconic start and finish line, views of the water, relatively flat route, wide roads with a person carrying capacity of several thousand, access to public transportation, etc.,” Robinson wrote, “and therefore, it is not uncommon that a number of events including festivals and runs/walks have some similar attributes.”
Stewart notes that the increasing popularity of the sport has inspired more entities to host races. And with more people willing to pay steep entry fees to take part in races, putting on running events can potentially be profitable.
But are there too many races? Briggs and Nwadike agree that market saturation affects them. Briggs is worried that runners won’t want to run a race on a similar course in both November and March, especially when there are so many other half marathon options nearby.
The large number of half marathons is precisely why Nwadike wanted to come up with an original concept for his race, and he rejects the notion that the two races will have similar vibes.
“[The USA Half Marathon] is not so much about celebrating the highlights of San Diego, it’s about celebrating your accomplishments and challenging yourself to do better,” Nwadike says. “We’re trying to promote it as a competitive sport.”
Nwadike says he has reached out to Briggs and offered to help promote the San Diego Half Marathon.
“It’s one of those things where, as race organizers, you figure out ways to work together and be good neighbors to each other and make it all work out,” Nwadike says.
The dispute in San Diego raises the larger issue of what rights organizers have with regards to the events they create. Since event organizers generally don’t own their venues, almost all races are at the mercy of the individuals and groups in their cities and towns that grant permits to hold such events.
“The only thing that you can legally copyright or trademark is the name of the event,” Stewart says. “I know that somebody else couldn’t come into Washington, D.C. and put on a Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.
“Could they come into Washington, D.C. and put on a Cherry Blossom 10K? They probably could. The copyright laws are exceedingly narrow in terms of what the copyright office will let you protect.”