Not long after the Sportspectrum River Cities Triathlon launches at 7 a.m. Sunday at Cypress Black Bayou Park, Matt Brown is expected to heave a giant exhale.
After 38 years of directing races, sometimes multiple ones in a weekend, the owner of Sportspectrum will hit his finish line. That’s good news for the Brown family unaccustomed to having its patriarch home on the weekends, bad news for the multitude of Shreveport-area running enthusiasts accustomed to his nice, tidy events.
Brown began selling the business five years ago and the sale should be concluded Oct. 1, so Brown has slowly been phasing himself out. There will be some small races between now and then, but the Sportspectrum races, like the Revel and Autumn Breeze, will happen without Brown’s involvement.
“I have to say, it’s bittersweet,” he said.
There have been a lot of perks to being involved in local races, and the connection with the community has been one of the biggest.
91-YEAR-OLD RUNNER: John Kollen is a favorite of Matt Brown
TOP BUSINESS: Iconic business built into powerhouse by Matt Brown
“Watching the evolution of early runners from being a weekend warrior to the serious runners,” Brown said. “Back in the day, I watched my friends push their kids in baby joggers at races. Now, I watch those same kids pushing their kids at our 5K runs. And the granddads are still running or cheering on from the sidelines.”
Over the years, Brown and company have developed many connections in the business community. His races have helped raise money for Northwest Louisiana causes like Race for the Cure, 12-Hour Dusk-to-Dawn Relay and Kids Against Tobacco.
“Running touches all ages and levels of fitness,” Brown said. “It has been an honor and privilege to be part of that.”
The races have given the opportunity to compete to many levels of competitors. On Sunday, para triathlete Heather Sealover, a 13-year Air Force veteran, will be among the 600-plus competitors. A West Virginia native stationed at Barksdale, Sealover had been a distance runner since high school until she sustained orthopedic injuries in 2020. She began racing para triathlons a little over a year ago with Dare2Tri.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to create awareness for the para community and inclusion of all athletes,” Sealover said. “I am excited to be able to participate in a local event, especially since I normally have to travel around the country to race in inclusive events. Matt is allowing me to do a trial run of this event for the inclusion of para athletes.”
Brown has had his share of challenges over the years. He and his wife had three girls in travel soccer, dance and basketball, so making their events while directing up to four races in a weekend was tough.
“But we made it work,” he said.
And then there were the challenges of COVID-19. There were new rules, participation was down and protocols were hard to deal with.
“We got thrown some curve balls where we had to cancel big races like the Turkey Trot and River Cities Triathlon, just days before they were to happen,” Brown said. “Most participants were very understanding, it was just hard.”
Jimmy Watson covers Shreveport-Bossier area sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JimmyWatson6.