ENDURANCE TEST: New Yorkers racing through their morning commute Friday may have been momentarily tripped up by those who stopped in their tracks to watch a few Asics-sponsored athletes running on treadmills near a Columbus Circle subway entrance.
As the official apparel and footwear sponsor for Sunday’s TCS New York City Marathon, the event helped to rally fans and presumably reel in some new ones. Supporters are known to line the 26.2 mile course six-people deep in certain sections and this year the race will be broadcast via ESPN2 in 175 countries. For the first time, a select number of elite runners will have SportsMedia Technology wearables that will track their biometric data.
Race organizers have added an unexpected marketing twist — “Smile Markers” have been placed on bus shelters, sidewalks, billboards and bike shares in 27 spots along or near the course. Not to be confused with mile markers, which runners use to pace themselves or curse themselves as the case may be, Smile Markers not only highlight marathon facts and aspects, but also serve as a mobile game: Unlocking markers gives users access to a digital experience in each location.
Friday’s event supported Asics’ Extra Mile initiative, which benefits Girls on the Run. For each mile run or walked on outdoor treadmills, a pair of shoes were to be donated to the nonprofit Girls on the Run, which encourages youngsters to be healthy and active. There was also a leaderboard set up to track real-time results for Columbus Circle participants as well as those participating through the Runkeeper app. Elite runner Ryan Hall and his wife Sara, who plans to run her first TCS Marathon Sunday, pitched in Friday morning.
Another fivesome of competitive athletes were expected at Asics’ Columbus Circle outpost Friday afternoon — Olympians Queen Harrison, Diego Estrada, Jarrion Lawson and Bill Rodgers, as well as Canadian marathoner Lanni Marchant. Rodgers, a four-time winner of the New York City and the Boston Marathons, plans to run what will be his 60th marathon — 40 years after his first New York City Marathon win.
“American Idol” watchers may spot the singer Jax running past Sunday, and NFL ones may spy Tiki Barber. Nonrunners or spectators, who vow to run next year’s marathon, will have two more branded stores to choose from — Asics is at work on a midtown location on Fifth Avenue, and Adidas is reportedly opening a 60,000-square-foot one next month. In the meantime, Asics’ 2016 NYC Marathon collection gear is being sold at its Meatpacking and Soho stores, and Foot Locker, Modell’s and other specialty stores.