Wayne Kursh opened up Marathon Sports Running Store in 1976. He was inspired by Frank Shorter winning an Olympic gold medal in the marathon in 1972 and the success of road runner Bill Rodgers, who won the Boston and New York City marathons four times each, which coincided with the popularity of Runner’s World magazine.
Marathon Sports-sponsored road races transitioned to Races2Run in 1991, as Wayne became a full-time race director.
Using digital format, Wayne and I – friends through the running scene – went back and forth (or out and back) recently, reflecting on his passion for the sport and his career as a race director.
“It was 1991 when I decided to close my retail store and concentrate on organizing events,” Wayne said. “The DuPont Company downsizing and Persian Gulf War was the double whammy in making my decision. Best decision I have ever made, next to asking Barb to marry me.”
In recent decades, races have gone from the longer marathon craze down to 5Ks and everything in between. Some long-standing races are the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, 54 years; the Newark Turkey Trot 10K/5K, 48 years; the Bottle & Cork Half Marathon/10-Miler, 44 years; the Buffalo Stampede, 42 years; the Westside Health (now Superhero) 10K/5K, 30 years; the Firecracker 5K at Rockford Park on July 4, 35 years; Ronald McDonald House 5K, 31 years; and Thanksgiving Day MS Run/Walk in Wilmington, 42 years.
Wayne averages about 110 events per year. Most races are in Delaware, but Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey races are also on the schedule.
The biggest change in race management is chip timing. The computerized results are instantaneous and friends can track runners on their smart watches. Directors have had to change with the times. Taking numbered popsicle sticks and tear-off tags placed on a spindle at the finish line ain’t getting it in the new millennium.
“All about technology,” Wayne said. “I started NOVA Timing with Ed Hartwell 11 years ago. About that time, chip timing became affordable. We started with IPICO using a chip the size of a matchbox on your shoelace that we could use over and over, but folks grew tired of lacing chips on their shoes. We sold our equipment to another timer and went with MyLaps, where the chip is located on the back of your race bib. Ed Hartwell has grown NOVA Timing, and I am proud to say they are part of the Boston Marathon timing team and lead timing company of the Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. I believe they chip time close to 175 events a year.”
Wayne and Barb Kursh moved to Rehoboth full time a few years ago. “Where else can I find a job where I get to work with healthy people who like to have a good time and drink beer at 8 a.m. in the morning?” Wayne joked.
The summer races, including the popular Ten Sisters Series, are motivators for many families of fitness who chose to spend vacation time in Coastal Delaware.
“I get emails all the time from folks as far away as Hawaii asking when such and such a race is taking place so they can book accommodations,” Wayne said. “They say, ‘I love the events at the beach.’ We get to meet and greet so many out-of-town runners and walkers and hear their stories. Some have been coming to the beach since they were children, and now that they live in, say, Michigan, they come back and of course bring their children.”
Races were run on the cheap 40 years ago, but in 2020 it is all relative.
“I remember when entry fees were $5, which included a T-shirt,” Wayne said. “I have always tried to keep fees to a minimum, but like everything else, expenses go up. T-shirts cost more, police fees go up, permit fees go up, insurance fee goes up, on and on it goes. $25 is about the average entry fee for a 5K if you pre-enter, $30 the morning of the event. Yes ... the longer the distance the more the entry fee. Another reason we do our best to retain sponsors. Sponsors help keep the race fees manageable.”
Races2Run is now doing a virtual running series mostly for fundraising until the social world of sports opens back up.
“We will have a whole new crowd and new rules,” Wayne said. “The smaller events won’t be as affected as the large ones, like the New York Marathon. Safe is the new four-letter word in road racing.”