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Running Event at Auto Show Making Huge Strides

15 Jan, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

World marathon record-setter Meb Keflezighi won’t be there. Neither will anyone on Team USA, in all likelihood, nor anyone else who registers on the international (or national) Richter Scale of running. But a goofy promotion in the form of a run is garnering national attention and social media impressions in an (ahem) runaway fashion this week.

So what can we learn from Miles Per Hour, the run event being presented at the Chicago Auto Show at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center on Sunday, February 16, where runners (or wannabe runners) will see how many loops they can complete in an hour?

Quite a bit, actually. Here are some of the quick points:

Sometimes, stripped-down is best: Miles Per Hour is being presented at the Chicago Auto Show at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center on Sunday, February 16. (The auto show runs February 6-17). That’s right – there is a 2.4-mile loop around the convention center for people to run (or walk) as they see fit. Information is available here about the various registration options. Runners will complete loops through the large halls of McCormick Place where they can experience the Chicago Auto Show before the masses arrive for one of the show’s busiest days.

At Miles Per Hour, the finish line is what runners make it; run as far as possible within one hour while taking in the latest from the automobile industry. Registration includes a race entry, a ticket to the Chicago Auto Show with early access on race day, a participant T-shirt, a participant medal, free digital photo downloads, access to discounted auto show early access tickets for friends and family, a goodie bag and gear check.

The scenery is a bonus: Runners will also have first-rate views of the city skyline as they cross over the Grand Concourse bridge and access to wide glimpses of Lake Michigan through the Lakeside Center’s expansive window walls. The loop will include a variety of long straightaways, some unique zigzags and even an incline as runners ascend the indoor bridge over Lake Shore Drive.

And what an awesome combination of two unexpected entities: Who would put together a car show and a running event? Nobody, right? But maybe it’s possible to awaken commuters to the fun of running, particularly when the even makes it so enjoyable and quirky.

The sponsorship was a natural fit for the automaker: All it took was a minimum of research. Honda owners in the Chicago area over-index in running, according to a spokesperson. In fact, Honda sponsors a number of other sporting events including the National Hockey League, Little League Baseball and Softball, Esports — Team Liquid and League of Legends Championship, and the Honda Classic PGA Golf tournament

The logo for the inaugural event features the sole of a running shoe with Honda’s logo in the tread. The post-race event will be held at the Honda auto show display where participants can grab their goodie bags and snap a photo in front of a Honda-branded step and repeat banner.

The medal is a win for Honda as well: Let’s not forget the importance of the physical proof of participation – or the power of merchandising. In fact, winners will be awarded medals at the Honda display.

There’s a rationalization: “A lot of indoor runs can be cramped or repetitive, so this is truly a unique and comfortable way to race indoors, especially with the entertainment of the auto show displays to keep runners engaged,” Greg Hipp, CARA executive director, told the Chicago Auto Show. “Honda Miles Per Hour is a great opportunity to race in the winter without having to battle Chicago weather or icy/snowy conditions.”

Forget your finish time (or even how far you’ve run): Miles Per Hour not any WA (World Athletics, the new name for IAAF) - designated distance. In fact, it’s not even race-approved distance. All it is, is a great way to get runners, who have spring fever, into running (and to maybe bring some people who don’t run on a regular basis into real-life events). All it’s offering is a chance to run.

It is getting attention in a big way: Miles Per Hour’s Facebook page includes information on the packet pickup for the event, which has resounded well with the running community. Count on the event to be a social media sensation, with plenty of hashatags for #MilesPerHour and #ChicagoAutoShow.

“Registrations have been solid so far,” Hipp told SDM. “Our capacity is 1,000 participants. We're limited due to the indoor nature of the course. The social media buzz has been very strong. We are optimistic we'll have a great turnout for the first year”

Whether Newbies or Overachievers, Everyone is SO welcome: in addition to offering the ability to run the 2.4 miles (non-timed), teams of three and four runners are welcome, and each merit their own registration category. Each team member will run the full one-hour for distance. Teams that run a combined 26.2 Miles or more will earn 26.2 Team Challenge pins as a companion to their finishers medal. Team captains can set up a team, pay for themselves and allow other team members to register independently.

There’s a membership incentive: Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) Supporter level members receive 10 percent off their registration fee.

It’s a Great Way of Turning Casual Participants into Core Athletes: The Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s State of the Industry Report recently noted an imbalance between casual participants in sports (those who don’t buy shoes and apparel or travel to participate in events) and core participants in sports (those who participate in organized runs, and travel to events like senior games, or even local 5Ks). Getting people involved on a casual, fun basis can mean someone participating on an increased basis later this year.

In short, the quirky partnership deserves your attention, if only because it is doing a number of things right. CARA is heading into 2020 with a precisely defined vision of getting runners interested and breaking down barriers. It’s a example many event owners can learn from.

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