How the run community has taken the city
Auckland based Race09 has been shaking things up for over a year now - birthed during the first wave of Covid, creators Michael Dawson and Dan Donegan were looking to find a way to shake up what running could be in Auckland. It’s a legit city, and Race09 felt like a good way to take advantage of the size and landscape of Auckland.
After a series of successful races through all areas of Auckland, Dawson and Donegan haven’t just shaken things up, they’ve put Auckland on the map. Dan points out that they’ve filled a niche by staying true to what appeals to themselves.
“I would say that we’ve got an event that creates a buzz with runners around Auckland because it’s not like anything else available. The spirit of Race09, which is pretty fast and loose, probably speaks to a particular type of runner, but I think it’s also the social side of it too.”
Dawson agrees that having a clear outlook of what Race09 should be has helped it catch on with the running public. “I subscribe to the principle that if you set out to please everybody, you please nobody. We’ve really taken that to heart when creating Race09. The runners that enjoy Race09, really love it and they come back time after time.”
For the uninitiated, Race09 follows a similar-but-different format to other street races around the world, including the famous Orchard Street Runners events in New York City. Think of each race like a pop-up; it gets announced one minute and sells out the next, with runners only receiving the course less than an hour before the race starts. There are no road closures, no course markings, and no shortage of people wanting to race.
It’s high energy, it’s competitive, and a race entry has become a hot ticket. According to Dan, the demand to race is feverish; with even a summer hiatus not dampening people’s appetite to get involved.
“The first race wasn’t even a race, it was just 25 friends who are runners that we invited to just test the concept. People had a blast and the photos really told the story. From there we got a couple of sponsors on board, Hallertau for the 09 beer and Ciele for some prizes and now it sells out in minutes every time."
Dan continues, "We keep people guessing. We had a four-month break over summer with hardly any posts on social media, no events etc. We did wonder if people would have forgotten about it, but that definitely wasn’t the case…”
And while Race09 is not a brand new concept, this is a world that rewards the doers.
Dawson and Donegan have created something that has shifted the thinking of what running can be for a community in Auckland and maybe throughout New Zealand, and who knows where that could lead? What creative new ideas for running will be birthed by the people participating in or seeing Race09?
I asked Donegan what he finds exciting about hosting Race09 events.
“For me it’s definitely when the race entries come in and I see new names on the list each time. It’s still a very underground race so I often wonder how they’ve found out about it. Usually after the race I’ll go and chat with them and hear how they got involved and how they went in the race. Often it’s people who have been following us for a while, but hadn’t quite got the nerve up to enter for a few months. Some have even come to watch first before entering.”
One of the key outcomes so far has been the expansion of the running community - running can often feel isolating and exclusive if you didn’t grow up in the club system or running school cross country events. But Race09 tends to draw a huge mix of participants, creating new opportunities for all types of runners. I ask Dawson if the success of Race09 makes him optimistic about what could be next for New Zealand’s running community.
“I think running in NZ is still old school or it’s very commercial, so it’s exciting to create and offer a unique experience that is so different from what is currently out there. It’s exciting to see a hunger and interest in a project like Race09; it shows a lot more room for innovation and forward-thinking in the NZ running world.”
The thing about Race09 is it puts the power back in the hands of the people actually shaping the culture. Traditional races have their place, but people are sick of paying $100+ to an events company that cares more about profit than its participants, or having to line up in a starting corral at 6am, or fighting through packs of walkers to get to where they can have a good race experience.
Through Race09, Donegan and Dawson are allowing people to race their way, on their terms, with their people.