November 25th, 2009
12:09 PM ET

50on50: Thanksgiving Day Marathon Runners Trample 18-49 Demo!


Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

With just a day to go before the Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Marathon & Half Marathon, I spent some time at the event’s Runner’s Expo. I’m happy to report, the huge community of long distance runners is trampling the 18-49 demo worshippers. Virtually everything I learned at the Runner’s Expo left the idea of an 18-49 audience demo in the dust.

The Older I Get The Faster I Was

I wish I had thought of that line. “The older I get the faster I was.” It was on a t-shirt at the Runner's Expo.

But the lesson I learned from the expert runners and coaches at the runner’s expo was that, for the 50+ crowd, speed doesn’t really matter. Health does. The joy of running does. But not competing for the best time against others. It’s about finishing your run, injury free.

What Pace Means

I was introduced to Atlanta Track Club Coach Andy Carr, who started running in 1972 after watching American runner Frank Shorter win the Munich Olympics - (when running shorts were Shorter.) Coach Carr was talking to me about the importance of pace. I started getting self-conscious because, as I reported yesterday I apparently don’t even run fast enough in the rain for the rain to sting my face. I’m a little sensitive to my slow speed. And here was Coach Carr talking about the importance of PACE.

Then Coach Carr explained that by “pace” he didn’t mean “fast.” He meant pace yourself, as in, don’t go burn up the road and burn out. Long distance running means “listening to your body.” That’s a phrase you hear a lot at a runner’s expo. Listen to your body.

Listening To Your Body

It’s tough to listen to your body when you’re listening to your IPod. Running to U-2s “It’s a Beautiful Day” can drown out what you’re body’s telling you. Sometimes I wonder if my body could be shutting down while the music of Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Crusade Choir keeps my legs moving all the way to heaven. So I may need to rethink running with my IPod. Maybe it’s not so safe for a runner to do the “IPod Shuffle.”

Beat Your PR

Coach Carr, by the way, is 46. He’s nearing the end of “the demo.” He’s already, as he puts it, “on the other side.” That’s on the other side of competitive running. His competitive streak now has one main target. Beating his PR.

PR? I heard that term a few times at the Runner’s Expo. Public Relations? Puerto Rico? No. Personal Record. When you approach the end of the 18-49 demo you get wise. You’re still competitive. But you know the value of self-improvement. Beat your PR.

How Old Are You Now?

In some ways, the runner who gave me the most ammunition to destroy the despicable 18-49 demo worshippers was the calmest, most peaceful, comfortable- in-his-own-skin person I met at The Expo. His name is Greg Sheats. He’s out of the demo. But he’s in the zone.

Greg ran on his high school and college track teams. Now he runs for pure pleasure. When I asked him how old he was he surprised me with the answer. 52. (He doesn’t look anywhere near 52.) Then he added this spontaneous reflection.

“If I Did Not Know How Old I Was I Would Not Know How Old I Was.”

I Googled that line and came up with zero results. It was an original, spontaneous thought. Sheats said: “I don’t think age is relevant to my quality of life and outlook.” He was speaking from the heart. And his heart helped give me heart, to pursue my campaign against the absurd category of 18-49.

Sheats’ observations gave me a strong lead to defining what I call “A New Demo for a New Age.”™

Sheats is a senior employee at a running shoe company. His longest run of the week is Sunday mornings. He doesn’t keep track of his distance or speed. He just runs for two hours. He can’t run longer on Sunday morning, because he goes to Church. Two hours of running gets him to the church on time.

The Ultimate Demo?

I asked him what his company’s target demo is. “Well,” he explained, “because of the nature of physical fitness, with walking, running, everything in between, our demo is - “18-75.” VICTORY. The Runner’s Demo – people who can keep running when many younger people would surrender - is 18-to-75. Hmm, seems 18-49 misses a few healthy consumers, to say the least. Wait, it gets better.

As Greg thought about it, these words calmly crossed the finish line of our interview.

“The World is Our Demo,” he stated softly.

THAT’S IT! THE WORLD IS OUR DEMO!™ Another original phrase from Greg Sheats that did not appear in the results of a Google search. I’m putting a protective tm on it – on Greg’s behalf. It’s for him. Not for me. I will use his new trademarked World is Our Demo™ thought to help destroy the 18-49 demo.

You TV execs who still worship old conventional wisdom – you ad men and women who still pursue the 18-49ers as if it’s a meaningful category – you can’t handle The World is Our Demo.™ It’s too much for you. Forget about it. Forget Greg Sheats ever said it. Forget that I passed it on in this column. You stick to 18-49 and see where it leads you. Greg and I are heading in a broader direction. We’re identifying a healthier, more active, more influential audience. The world is our demo.™ Good luck to you!

Being Inclusive

Those of you who are between the ages of 18-49, please don’t get me wrong. You’re not being cut out of A New Demo for a New Age.™ The new demo is inclusive. You can be part of it.

As long as you can keep up with those of us “on the other side.”

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