see if copwatch can do something like this to raise money???


Marathon to rock Valley in '04
Race is on to get 30,000 runners

By Jeff Metcalfe
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 11, 2003

What if Arizona woke up one day to discover the New York City Marathon pouring through it like the Salt River during a 100-year flood? That day is coming in one year, and likely each second Sunday in January for at least the near future.

Organizers are optimistic about selling out the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon/Half Marathon on Jan. 11, 2004 for a total field of 30,000. Given typical attrition, that translates to 24,000-25,500 finishers, comparable to the record 31,824 who made it through all five boroughs to Central Park for the finish of the 2002 New York City Marathon.

Admittedly half the runners here will cover 13.1 rather than the 26.2 miles demanded at New York and hilly Boston. But that only makes business sense in an era when 5K (3.1 miles) has supplanted 10K (6.2 miles) as the U.S. race distance of preference by a 2.5-to-1 finisher margin.

And in a state seemingly running in place for 15 years since the demise of the American Continental 10K, an elevation back to the world scene is welcome at any distance.

"A lot of us remember what it was like in the '80s when running was so exciting in this area," said Fred Moore, who directed the American Continental 10K from 1983-87. "The Fiesta Bowl in its peak years was one of the top marathons in the country, and a lot of people did come here. But there's been a real vacuum. It's been tried, including myself, to pull a marathon off, but none of us had the capability of putting the financial package together."

Enter Elite Racing Inc. of San Diego.

Founder and President Tim Murphy rode on the media truck at the 1986 American Continental 10K when Arturo Barrios set a loop-course world record. Ever since, he has been intrigued by the possibilities here.

"It's such a huge market and such a great running community," Murphy said. "You cannot find a place on earth with more consistently good marathoning weather" in January. "Nobody says I don't want to go to Arizona. You tell them it's flat, what the temperature is and that it's rock 'n' roll (format) and the response is 'that's such a winner.'

"This is as good as we've ever had it as far as excitement about a race. There were a lot of people questioning if we could get 20,000 to San Diego (Suzuki Rock 'n' Roll Marathon) and even more questioning if we could get 15,000 to Virginia Beach (Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon). Nobody's questioning this one because it's such a natural."

Another bites the dust?

Skepticism naturally persists given that the Desert Classic, Lost Dutchman, Valley of the Sun, Thunder Mountain, Whiskey Row, Grand Canyon and Tucson marathons, including ancillary events, combined for fewer than 10,000 finishers last year. The New Times 10K was below 5,000 finishers and the state's largest participatory event, Race for the Cure Phoenix, had more than three-quarters of its 30,000 participants in the walkers' event.

"They're a confident group," said Moore, helping Elite to develop the course. "They're trying to hit a home run on the first shot and they're coming in with some heavyweights."

People behind the scenes include Bruce Skinner and John Reid, former executive directors of the Fiesta Bowl, who know the Valley and major-event planning.

Runners include world marathon record holder Khalid Khannouchi and world 5K record setter Deena Drossin, who are listed among the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona founders because of their affiliation with Elite. Meb Keflezighi, U.S. 10,000-meter track record holder who was ninth in his marathon debut at New York, also has strong ties with Elite.

Whether Khannouchi or Drossin will be in the inaugural field is uncertain given the timing of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials: men, Feb. 7; women, April 4.

"We could fly the top Americans in to run the half as a workout," Murphy said. Elite will offer a minimum $100,000 prize money for the marathon.

Records could fall

It's likely that Arizona marathon records, which have stood since the early 1980s and more recent half-marathon marks could fall. Lest anyone forget how fast a flat Phoenix course can be, 10 U.S. single-age 10K bests were set here, including Mark Nenow's open record of 27 minutes, 48 seconds at the American Continental in 1985.

Murphy said Rock 'n' Roll Arizona will have the largest advertising budget in the history of running and an overall budget of $3 million to $4 million. This fall Elite peddled the event by hand in booths at 15 major races, put information about it in goodie bags at 30 other races and introduced it to the media before the New York City Marathon.

"Their real strength is that they're great marketers," said Skinner, who after his Fiesta Bowl stint (1980-90) was president of the International Festivals and Events Association. "Very few go to the number of races and running shows they do. That immediately says you have a big race. If you're not there in person, it's not a big race."

Murphy puts early Rock 'n' Roll Arizona entries ahead of the pace for the first Suzuki Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, which sold out at 20,000 five months early in 1998.

Runners will come to Arizona with an average of 1.8 companions, leading to Murphy's conservative estimate of a $40 million direct economic impact.

Direct economic impact of the recent Tostitos Fiesta Bowl national championship football game is conservatively placed at $57 million by Tim Hogan of Arizona State's Center for Business. The annual NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway has an estimated direct economic impact of $55 million.

A community effort

Murphy raves about the reception and cooperation Elite has received, including a $500,000 bid fee that the Maricopa County Sports Commission helped to raise from government agencies and tourism departments.

"I have no fear we'll draw that many (30,000) runners," said Mike Sculley, Sports Commission executive director. "Our goal is to drive economic numbers, to target runners outside the county and let inside take care of itself. We know the interest locally is going to be there."

If 80 percent to 85 percent of the field is staying one night or more in a local hotel, Rock 'n' Roll Arizona will be an economic success. State, county and city tourism/Convention & Visitor bureaus will market Arizona in tandem with Elite marketing the marathon.

"The cities (Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa) realize the value of events that bring people in," said Skinner, who is working corporate sales of the race. "They see it as a great marketing tool not only to bring people in for the race itself but beyond that with exposure you get through television, print, magazines and trade shows.

"We started the Fiesta Bowl from the bottom. This will start big in the top 10 marathons right away. How many sporting events can say that?"

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