This post was written by Peaked Too Early Guest Blogger, Ryan Kiger
A few years ago, ESPN broke multiple stories regarding… a track meet. No, it wasn’t about the Olympics or a world record being broken, and even more surprising, it had nothing to do with doping. In February 2017, a meet took place in Melbourne, Australia that was highlighted by the presence of Usain Bolt and the debut of a new concept for how track meets could be conducted. The meet featured a variety of creative events that included an elimination mile, mixed relays, a three-minute distance challenge and even targets for javelin. Along with these innovative events was a point scoring system that pitted different national and international teams against each other. It was a fun and exciting meet that got great publicity at the time, but the concepts they implemented never managed to gain traction with the IAAF (aka World Athletics).
So why does this meet matter? In the current state of track and field, and the sport of running generally, every big news story seems to highlight the current weaknesses of our sport. With the Olympics coming up, running will be back in the spotlight as it is every four years. But what if there was a way to have excitement continue into those non-Olympic years? Nitro Athletics gave us the blueprint to make track popular around the world.
First, the innovation of mixing in novel events that people hadn’t seen before. Our sport is unique in that there are so many different events that make up a meet, so you don’t need to have the same events at every meet. Also, who wouldn’t want to watch athletes race a mile in which each lap someone is eliminated until only one competitor remains? Even if each meet had just one event that was distinct and unusual, like a mixed relay or an elimination mile, it would go a long way towards viewership. Or on the other hand, if these events were all run at one meet annually and the stars of the sport were invited, like the pro bowl or all-star weekend, it could foster some conversation and excitement.
Second, why isn’t there competition among teams at the professional level? One of the most exciting meets of the year is the NCAA XC Championships, not because of the individuals running, but because of the team battles going on. Watching BYU upset NAU this year was captivating and had every runner I know glued to their screen for the result. While individual storylines are exciting, there’s something about rooting for or against a team that really energizes viewers. Utilizing Nitro Athletics point scoring system, just like at a college or high school track meet, could revitalize the team aspect professional running is missing. Additionally, developing a league featuring teams based on either sponsor or location that would compete over the course of the year would create long-term team fans that would outlast individual phenoms.
Lastly, we simply need to market individual athletes better. If I asked the average person how many professional runners they had heard of, most would not be able to name one. Getting the sport of running in the spotlight more often and highlighting individual athletes through meets, events and interviews where they get to show their personalities is the key to making track more popular.
Looking for interviews where runners get to show their personalities? Peaked Too Early Pod has you covered
If you can take anything from this, let it be that the sport of running has tremendous potential and there’s no reason why one of the most popular sports in the world to compete in shouldn’t also be among the most popular to watch. Three years ago, Nitro Athletics set the standard for what track could become and where our sport could go. Let’s take the schematics provided by Nitro Athletics and develop this sport into something special.
Ryan Kiger is a guest blogger for Peaked Too Early.
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