Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Austin-area races seem to thrive despite difficult economy

Region's reputation also luring more top talent to move here

Brom Hoban

It has been a busy year in the Austin-area running world, where more than 120 races were run and many of those were run at or near capacity.

While some people have answered the challenges of the economy by reducing activities and spending, it doesn't appear as though running has been a part of that strategy.

Sean Ryan, director of the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in Wisconsin, which is comparable in size to the Austin Marathon, has made a point of studying road racing trends, and has concluded that running events are somewhat "recession-proof." Ryan saw his own race numbers go up significantly in 2009, and found that to be true for races in other parts of the country as well.

"In 2009, we sold out for the first time ever," says Austin Marathon race director John Conley. "The long-term trend shows that more people are running, more people are paying attention to fitness, and more people are entering races. I really do think it's recession-proof."

The continued vibrancy of the Austin-area running scene is attracting new talent.

Three-time Cowtown Marathon champ Keith Pierce moved to Cedar Park from Fort Worth last June to take the track and cross country coaching position at Vandegrift High School in Leander, and already has notched some great victories. In October, Pierce topped a deep field, winning the Run for the Water 10-Miler in 51:33, and a month later he sped to a 24:54 win at the Thundercloud Turkey Trot Five Miler, a race that attracted more than 14,000 runners.

Former University of Arkansas star Adam Perkins just moved here to join the newly formed Rogue Elite team, and is one to watch as well.

Top area women like Chris Kimbrough, Cassie Henkiel and Carmen Troncoso also saw the competition get tougher as newcomers Dacia Perkins (University of Arkansas) and Shawneen Garrahan, a recent Amherst College graduate now attending law school at the University of Texas, joined the ranks. Garrahan proved she's a contender with her Run for the Water victory, as did newcomer Alison Macsas, the IBM 10K champ.

"I'm looking forward to 2010," says Pierce. "I'm entered in the 3M Half-Marathon, and the Austin Marathon. One of the things that was really exciting for me in moving here was that I knew Austin had a great running community, and great places to run. And now I feel a part of it. I'm starting to feel like an Austinite."