The Next Evolution Recap: Industry Innovators Join Running USA for Summer Conference

Running USA
July 1, 2016

Two-day Denver event offered participants the chance to network, learn and collaborate


DENVER (July 1, 2016) – Running USA, the not-for-profit organization that connects leaders in the running business and offers education, research, and publicity to its members, concluded its second summer conference in downtown Denver this week.

The two-day event, The Next Evolution presented by, featured the opportunity for attendees to network, learn about each other’s businesses, and collaborate meaningfully on industry challenges.

Running is an industry with many faces, emcee Lonnie Somers told the crowd of attendees on Thursday, June 30. The Game of Thrones reference was apropos – over the last 18 months, the running industry has seen signs that the so-called “second running boom,” a growth period for the sport of more than two decades, has subsided.

“The landscape of running today is very different,” said Somers, a Colorado race director and treasurer of the Running USA Board of Directors. “Today, there are many more entertainment runs, and that’s just one place where things are changing. There’s so much we can learn from each other that will help our events evolve.”

The focus of the conference was on education and change. Nearly 150 attendees enjoyed dedicated networking sessions, multiple panel discussions on topics like marketing, community engagement and sponsorship, and dove into the State of the Sport with three speakers from outside its traditional confines.

Tanner Bell (co-founder, Ragnar Relay), John Connors (VP, Product Development, the Color Run), and Jenna Velardi (VP, Events, Human Movement) spoke about the ways that their events have changed the way the running world is mapped.

Connors pushed back against the idea that millennials are responsible for ending the running boom, calling the notion “apocalyptic.” “Running is definitely not going anywhere,” he said, though it may be changing in nature.

In fact, among the attendees in the audience were the co-founders of Denver’s bRUNch Running community, who were hosting a pop-up run and dining get together that same evening. Hundreds of Denver 20-somethings, mostly women, gather regularly for combined run+food events. There’s no competition, only some miles run together and good times shared.

In other words, running isn’t dead, but it is in a period of transition.

“Companies that stay ahead of the trends are the ones that are going to be relevant in the next few years,” said Bell. His nationwide Ragnar Relay business expanded recently to include trail relays with a campout component, which have been very popular.

Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger commented: “We are seeing growing harmony for traditional road racing and the next generation of obstacle events, and a desire to grow the sport together.  Our mission is to help our members do that.”

Running USA’s next industry conference, the 14th annual Running USA, takes place February 26-28 at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida. Registration is now open for this don’t-miss event.

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