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Posted: April 19, 2004

Running and Triathlon: RunnersWeb.com Website a gathering place for running world

The Original Runner's and Triathlete's Web

By Rob Brodie, Ottawa Sun

This was supposed to be, as Ken Parker tells it, nothing more than a hobby. A small website designed to be a meeting place for Ottawa's running community, with all the latest local news about a sport that has been Parker's lifelong passion.

One quick scan of RunnersWeb.com -- if that's indeed possible -- tells a much different story about an Internet portal that has become a worldwide phenomenon.

"It got bigger than I ever wanted it to be," admits Parker, who launched Runner's Web as a one-page site in 1996. "Now it's become a micro-business."

Understand that Parker, 62, considers himself retired. He and his son, KC, sold their family business, Sirius Consulting Group Inc., back in February.

But Parker pours up to eight hours a day into his website, and it isn't likely to slow down anytime soon. Then again, this is a site with a whopping 7,000 external links.

"I'm busier now than when I was working," said Parker.

But this is a true labour of love. Parker's home office is a shrine to the sport. He still coaches the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing Team, which he founded. He was also a founding coach of the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, and helped launch and direct the National Capital Marathon.

With the Runner's Web, he's tapped into a captive audience that shares his passion. But much more than he ever imagined: In March, the site attracted nearly 2.2 million hits and 659,000 page views.

"It was not really designed to grow like this," said Parker, who decided to turn the site into a small business. "I started doing this for local people who were looking at it."

Now he gets race organizers in Ireland sending him results. He's had stories contributed by a running enthusiast in Malta.

Elite-level triathletes such as Jill Savege and Natasha Filliol talk about having breakfast with the site. It's a home page for Ottawa triathlete Sharon Donnelly, whose site Parker also manages (Sirius was her original sponsor, back in 1997, and is supporting her through the Athens Olympics).

"The Internet has brought everyone to a common base," Parker said in discussing his site's global reach. "It doesn't matter if you're in a remote spot in the world, as long as you have (Internet) access."

Research Links

Web giants have noticed the site's research capabilities, too. Runner's Web is the top-ranked site for running and triathlon on Google, the world's largest Internet search engine.

Yahoo and Britain's NewsNow also index the site. Runners World magazine -- the sport's biggest chronicler -- is linked to Parker's creation.

"People are using this as a reference for getting news about the sport, wherever they are in the world," said Parker.

The challenge now, he said, is developing new content for the site. Parker sees the Runner's Web becoming more news-focused in the future, instead of a haven for race results.

"There are lots of other sites out there, like Sports Stats, that specialize in results," he said.

How much bigger can his site get?

"I don't have great aspirations," said Parker. "It's growing, and I get lots of feedback on it.

"But it's just a fun thing for me."

Copyright © 2004, CANOE, a division of Netgraphe Inc. All rights reserved.

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