There was a time when I thought a road race could never be sold. Who would buy it and what exactly would the buyer be buying anyway? Today, however, races are now being bought and sold left and right. Boy, did I miss the bus on that one.

Well, maybe and maybe not.

The more appropriate question might be: Who actually owns an event and can it truly be owned the way a piece of real estate can be or a private business can be owned? And, what about a non-profit event? I’m not an attorney so I really don’t know the answer to this question. However, even if one lays claim to owning an event what, in fact, does one truly own?

The easy answers would be that one could own the trademarks of the event, that is, the name and the logo. Additionally, one could own the database of past entrants of the event and other intellectual race-related property. OK, now what else?? Maybe you are buying some goodwill and perhaps a covenant by the former owner not to compete. Maybe there are other tangible assets (equipment, supplies, etc.) but generally speaking there really isn’t a lot more you can own that someone else couldn’t easily just bring to the table themselves.

So, maybe the more important question should be, who controls or authorizes whether an event can or can not take place? Most events are conducted on city or town property. All race directors have to get “permission” in the way of permits to conduct our events. If we don’t get permission, we don’t have an event. So, what do you then end up owning? Maybe not that much in reality.

I once helped out with a triathlon on Cape Cod. The race had a race director and had a long-time sponsor. After a few years of working together, they decided to part ways. However, both still wanted to put on the race, so both individually went into the town office and applied for permission to conduct the event. However, neither could actually prove it was his event. The Board of Selectmen wanted no part of deciding whose race it was so they asked both the RD and sponsor to leave and resolve this on their own, only allowing one representative to return with the permitting request or risk having the event be canceled entirely. They resolved the conflict and a permit was eventually granted.

A few years ago, I attended a Road Race Management conference. There were about 100 race directors in the audience. After my presentation, one of them asked me, “So, how do I determine what my race is worth?” 

In response, I fired two questions back to the audience: “Has anyone ever purchased a race before?” Not one hand went up. “Has anyone ever sold a race before?” Again, not one hand went up. Answering the original question of what a race was worth, I responded, “Well, if no one is willing to buy it, I suppose it not worth much of anything, is it?”

Personally, I’m not sure I would ever buy an event. What if I bought it and then the permitting authorities told me I couldn’t have permission to conduct it? Now I have nothing.

Besides, if I want to direct another race, I can just create it myself.