The Statesman Capitol 10,000 has qualified as the largest 10K in Texas for decades — and in 2012 it ranked fifth nationally — but the Cap 10’s new race director, John Conley, holds an even bigger vision of the event.
The race reached its peak in 1987, when it drew 28,341 entrants, but fewer than 20,000 entered the 1991 race, and the Cap 10’s field didn’t climb back above 20,000 until 2010.
“While that’s certainly respectable, I’d like to get the numbers up to 40,000 and rank in the top-three (races nationally),” said Conley, who also directs the Livestrong Austin Marathon among other races. “I think we can reach that goal.”
To that end, Conley has made some changes that he believes will foster the Cap 10’s growth. Among them:
- Moving the race’s start up an hour to 8 a.m., which should mean cooler weather for runners. The change also allows race officials to open streets to traffic again earlier in the day. “You’re being more runner-friendly and more community-friendly,” Conley said. “It’s more of a standard starting time.”
- Instituting chip-timing for all entrants. Until now, the Cap 10 always had two fields of entrants: one timed and one untimed. “It’s really important for us to know what that ‘bell curve’ looks like,” Conley said. “Right now, we know where the fastest runner is, and we know where the slowest runner is, but not the middle of the pack. Going to all-chip timing will give us a hard and fast number by which we will be judged.” As a result of this change, entry fees for the Cap 10 increased slightly this year for some runners.
- Eliminating paper registration in favor of online entries. The change makes it easier to correct registration errors, Conley said, and helps bring the Cap 10 in line with other races of its size.
- Capping the number of race entrants at 25,000. Though it might seem counter-intuitive, setting a race cap helps with planning and logistics, Conley said. “It’s a milestone that we can use to organize and budget: How many bananas, water cups and race bibs do we need? That kind of stuff is just an educated guess without a cap. The market is what determines what we grow to. If we hit our cap, we’ll know that we can grow. If we fall far short, we’ll adjust our goals for the following year.”
Long-term, Cap 10 organizers hope to attract two new groups of entrants: runners who’ve just moved to Austin and want to try an iconic event plus those who come to the race from outside the city and the state.
“John is helping us build a strategy to grow this event. It’s our goal to create a race that is enticing to as many people as possible,” said Colleen Brewer, vice president of sales and marketing for the American-Statesman.
As in past years, the Cap 10 will benefit a local charity. This year’s beneficiary will be Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas.
Looking ahead to 2014, Conley envisions attracting elite runners who could compete for prize money in the form of performance bonuses. Outside of the Cap 10, the largest 10K races in the country draw elite runners and offer prize money, heightening awareness of those events.
“Right now, we’re not on a sports page besides local papers,” Conley said. “Compare that to the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta, Georgia, where national newspapers and magazines report on it. I think that these types of events become self-perpetuating in their mythology. Peachtree is the rite of summer. The Capitol 10,000 should be the rite of spring.”
Added Brewer: “I think we’re open to any idea that John has because of his experience. One of the great things about having an event for 36 years is that it’s very established. The downside is that you don’t always look at it with a fresh eye, and that’s what John’s doing.”
Conley noted that the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, S.C., ranked third nationally in terms of entrants last year while the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, Va., was fourth.
“Here you have two huge races on the same day, and they are only 360 miles apart,” Conley said, “yet each one is attracting well over 30,000 runners. In 2017, we’ll have our 40th anniversary. Forty thousand does not seem like such a big stretch for an iconic event like the Cap 10.”
Top 10 10K road races in the U.S.
According to Running USA, based upon total finishers these 10K races ranked 1 to 10 nationally in 2012:
1. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race;Atlanta, Ga.;58,043
2. Dick’s Sporting Goods Bolder Boulder;Boulder, Colo.;47,925
3. Cooper River Bridge Run;Charleston, S.C.;36,755
4. Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K;Richmond, Va.;33,329
5. Statesman Capitol 10,000;Austin;20,530*
6. Crescent City Classic;New Orleans;16,690
7. Bellin Run;Green Bay, Wis.;15,137
8. Thanksgiving Day Race;Cincinnati;14,862
9. Wharf to Wharf Race;Santa Cruz, Calif; 12,009
10. Richard S. Caliguiri Great Race;Pittsburgh, Pa.; 8.207
*Note: estimated finishers
Statesman Capitol 10,000
8 a.m. Sunday
Start: Barton Springs Road and South Congress Avenue
Finish: Auditorium Shores
How to register: statesman.com/s/cap10k/