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The Indianapolis Colts are preparing to join the running boom. Or is it running boom 2.0?
Either way, Colts officials are taking a cue from NFL executives in New York who have asked its teams to become more involved in fitness initiatives in general and suggested hosting preseason running events in particular.
The Colts Back to Football Run will be held Aug. 24—the morning of the team’s preseason home game vs. Cleveland—and will finish on the 50-yard line of Lucas Oil Stadium. A tailgate party at the stadium will follow the five-kilometer race.
The league is taking such happenings seriously and is sending members of its events department to Indianapolis to help oversee the race and associated happenings. California-based Competitor Group, which operates the massive Rock n Roll Marathon Series, has been hired to operate the Indianapolis run.
League officials in the spring of 2012 started asking teams to consider conducting running events that finish at or inside the stadium as a way to kick off the season, and draw fans closer to the team and NFL game while promoting health and fitness. The NFL emphasized that the events could also open another sponsorship opportunity for participating teams.
Competitor Group, which is operating several other races put on by NFL teams, is building a model with league approval that offers national sponsorship opportunities, and plans to use its national racing database and its specialty publications including Triathlete and Velo News to promote its events.
Last August, five teams—New York, Tennessee, San Diego, St. Louis and New Orleans—joined the race, hosting fitness events and runs, with all but New York ending inside their stadiums.
Teams have been creative, many lining the finishing stretch with their cheerleaders and team mascots. Some of the runners finishing on the Titans field were handed a football shortly before the finish line.
This year, the Colts have joined the craze, becoming one of 12 teams this preseason to host a running event. Next year, NFL officials hope all 32 teams will sponsor preseason running events.
Competitor Group helped the NFL operate events in Tennessee, San Diego, St. Louis and New Orleans last year. The New York Road Runners, which help operate the New York City Marathon, operated the Giants’ event.
How runners will enter Lucas Oil Stadium is still being worked out, said Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward. One option is through the southwest entrance. Another is through the main gate at the north end of the stadium and down a flight of stairs to the field for the finish.
Team officials hope to attract 2,000 to 3,000 participants to the inaugural run, which is sponsored by Indiana University Health. Part of the proceeds will go to the American Heart Association.
“This is all about promoting health and fitness and is closely related to our Play 60 initiative. It’s part of our overall community outreach,” Ward said. “We think it’s going to be a real popular event and one that could grow in years to come.”
The NFL is promoting the league-wide race series through NFLrunseries.com, and the Colts plan to market the local event through the team’s website and social media.