John Kane had an idea as he looked out of the window of a North Hills office in 2011. It has turned into a successful half-marathon series that has gone national, and continues to expand.
The popularity of half-marathon road races — which are 13.1 miles long — continues to grow, and Kane’s Raleigh-based company, Race 13.1, has taken full advantage of that trend.
“We’ve got all this parking that doesn’t really get used on Saturday and Sunday mornings,” Kane said of his thoughts that day looking out the window from the office of Lookout Capital, where he was director of investor relations at the time. “And then, I thought, there are all these tenants here who are built-in sponsors, so I thought why not?”
That led to the first Race 13.1 event in June 2012 in Raleigh, which started and finished in North Hills. After it went well, made a profit and earned money for a local charity, he added a fall Raleigh event. Although Kane still is an operating partner with Lookout Capital, a small private-equity investment firm, he works full time as the CEO of Race 13.1 out of a North Hills office.
The series expanded to five North Carolina events in 2014, then to 20 events in seven states this year, mostly in the Southeast. Kane expects to expand to 25 or 27 races next year — venturing farther north and west — then add 10–12 races a year after that until he reaches his goal of 60–65 races by 2019.
“After a few successful races, I started really studying the race landscape and realized there was a void in kind of smaller tier-one to tier-two cities for really well-produced half-marathons,” said Kane while noting that this isn’t an issue in the Triangle.
Helping make the expansion happen was the $750,000 that Lookout invested in the series in December 2013. “It enabled us to grow a lot quicker than I would have been able to do otherwise,” Kane said.
Most Race 13.1 events also have a 10K and a 5K, although there are some instead that have an 8K as the only companion race. The biggest event in the history of the series will be the debut of Race 13.1 Durham on Saturday. About 2,000 runners have registered for either the half-marathon, 10K or 5K.
“It’s a testament to strong base of runners that we’ve built in the Triangle now having operated races here successfully for four years or so, and people know what they’re going to get when they run a Race 13.1 race and hopefully like it,” Kane said. “One thing we pride ourselves on is having great consistency from race to race.”
Race 13.1 has a staff of seven with several part-timers, and has added a Nashville office. Kane credits Eric Johnson with making sure those first Raleigh race ran smoothly and getting the series off to a good start. He hired Johnson to direct that first Race 13.1 event, and Johnson is the vice president of race directing for the series.
“We weren’t really sure what the response would be to adding that event,” Kane said of Race 13.1 Durham. “We’ve wanted to add an event in Durham, but the calendar for the Triangle is pretty crowded. It was hard to find a good date that doesn’t step on the toes of other races.”