April 21, 2013, exact 14 months ago today, I was bruised, scraped, cramped, and sore all over my body. It was all because of Tough Mudder! Today, I decided to experience that kind of pain again by attending Spartan Race on July 26 in Washington DC.

Spartan Race is a series of obstacle competitions that test participants’ physical limits and team works. Unlike Tough Mudder’s 12 miles obstacles, Spartan has varying level of difficulties and distances for participants to choose from.

As I finished online registration, one idea came across my mind: Why don’t we have this kind of running event in Asia?

As a running enthusiast, I have attended many running races in Taiwan. They were created with different themes, but the separations from one event to another was not much. After two years of living in the States, I have had many opportunities to closely observe and study Americans’ running races. I came to better realization about the different attitudes between Asians and Americans in running.

Generally speaking, compared to Asians, Americans are more adventurous, love outdoor activities, and consider working out as part of their lives. In here, it is not uncommon to see female runners wearing professional outfits running at noon under 90 degree Fahrenheit on street. It was also quite frequent to see lean men running nude at 5pm across pedestrians on a busy street. These scenes are not easy to find in Taiwan.

Because running is so common here, traditional running races could no longer satisfy American runners. (Traditional running races include 3K, 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon.) Thus, the new untraditional running races emerged: Running with a theme. Running with muds, colors, teammates, zombies…etc. Yes people are still running, but they are doing it with more emotion involvements.

Here are some of the non-traditional running races:
The Color Run – The Happiest 5K On The Planet.
The Great Bull Run – Running with the Spanish tradition… with live bulls.
Tough Mudder – Probably The Toughest Event On The Planet
Zombies, Run! – Running to the goal without getting caught by zombies.

“In the past five years, according to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), participation in adventure racing was up 211% and ranked in the Top 5 of most popular outdoor activities tried by first-timers.” (For more details, check the article, 2014 State of the Sport – Part I: Non-Traditional Running Events)

As a marketer, I can foresee these non-traditional running races with tremendous growing potentials in Asia. Recently, I found more and more Taiwanese, regardless of age, gender, and occupations, are willing to sacrifice their sleeping time on the weekend, waking up early to join running races in Taiwan. And the latest example was Nike’s new running campaign in Taipei: WERUNTPE : NIKE WOMEN’S HALF MARATHON 2014.

Why am I so positive about the non-traditional running races? I have my own reasons:

1. Sense of fulfillment. The non-traditional running races give participants rare opportunities to do something different. They attend not only a running race, but also a new and different one. From psychology’s stand point, the level of rarity can increase people’ desires to partake events.

2. Self-empowerment. More women are getting active in social and sports events. By participating in non-traditional running races, they gain more confidence in their physicality. They want to prove, guys can do it, we can do it too!

3. Fun really matters. The non-traditional running races add-on one more special ingredient in running, fun. I discussed with my friends who play regularly basketball but rarely run about the reasons of not running, and their responses have one thing in common, boredom. It is not that they can not run, instead it is the fact that boredom makes them shy away from running. The new invented running races will be so much fun. I believe even non-runners will be likely to give it a try.

4. Differentiation. Take a look at those successful brands, and they all do a good job in differentiating themselves from competitors. Nike differentiates itself by nike air, Twitter differentiates itself by constraints in 140 characters, and Egypt differentiates the brand by historical heritages. From the examples above, we can see that these races all have clear a theme, and these clear themes help them in differentiating themselves and telling a story with clear messages.

5. Social Network. Since the introduction of Nike+, Nike enable its users to run together. They don’t need to actually run together, but they can feel in that way. How? The key point is “share”. Users can share their running information on the social networks anytime, anywhere, with all kinds of captions. When people see their friends posting interesting running pictures on the social media, they can like, comment, and get more involved with that post.

Tough Mudder was invented by Harvard Business School students in 2010. They handed in their business plans with pride and confidence to professors, but they received “It will not work” as response. 4 years later, it has become one of the most popular non-traditional running races in the world. If they listened to the advises, this great invention will never happen. As I said in the title, new running races in Asia, why not?


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