A Boise race that’s been a fall tradition for Treasure Valley runners is ending because of dwindling registration, organizer Ryan Canning said Tuesday.
The Barber to Boise, traditionally held in October, featured a 10k race along the Greenbelt, starting at Barber Park and finishing at Boise State University (previously at Ann Morrison Park). There was also a 5k race.
“It’s not an easy decision because it is such an iconic event. It is a heritage event,” said Canning, who took over the race in 2008 after the YMCA of the Treasure Valley said it was going to cancel that year’s event because of a lack of sponsorships.
“There’s a very full calendar in Boise anymore,” Canning said. “That’s obviously not a bad thing, but it becomes very difficult to attract the number of participants (needed).”
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He said he was putting refunds in the mail Tuesday.
Canning, owner of Rhyno Racing & Promotions LLC, organizes running events for a living — primarily youth events such as the upcoming Bob Firman Invitational, which will bring about 3,000 middle school and high school cross country runners from nine states to Eagle Island State Park.
Canning said that his decision to cancel the Barber to Boise wasn’t rash and that it’s too late to save the race this year. He’s been watching registration numbers for the past month, and formulas based on entries from past years indicated that he wouldn’t have enough participants to meet costs, including shuttle buses to take runners from BSU back to Barber Park.
Race participation fell to 800 or 900 when the YMCA decided to pull the plug in 2008, according to an Idaho Statesman article that fall. At the time, Canning said he hoped to grow the race back up to 2,000 or 2,500. He wouldn’t discuss numbers Tuesday but said participation had flagged the past few years.
Rich Harris, owner of Bandanna Running & Walking, said a proliferation of races has watered down events in the Treasure Valley.
“You’re paying $30 up to $80 or $100 (for marathons) and there’s so, so, so many choices these days,” he said. “In my opinion ... the long-established local races are seeing their numbers dwindle because of all those choices. People like to try something new.”
The Running in the USA online calendar of events within 25 miles of Boise shows 68 events for 2015, including marathons, duathlons, triathlons, charity fundraisers and novelty fun runs (such as Insane Inflatable 5k, Tutu Run, Blacklight Bubble Party, Dirty Dash, The Color Run, etc.).
Canning said it’s not just a growth in fall races that challenged Barber to Boise, but the variety of outdoor and other activities, including hunting and football.
“There’s just a lot happening in Boise pulling people away,” he said.
Runners are voting with their feet, but some are sad to be losing a local tradition.
“People are disappointed because Barber to Boise has been around so long,” Harris said. Twenty years ago, it was the race in the fall because there were few other options.
“That’s what everyone did,” he said. “It was an icon, and it still is.”