By Jonathan Gault
April 1, 2020
Twenty years. It’s been a good run. But as of May 7, 2020, LetsRun.com will be no more.
The worldwide economic depression that has resulted from COVID-19 has cratered the advertising markets and it’s no longer economically feasible to run the website.
“May 7, 2000, was a dark day for US distance running fans and me personally, so the 20th anniversary of that date is the perfect day to go out,” said LetsRun.com co-founder Weldon Johnson, who saw his Olympic dream denied on the streets of Pittsburgh at the 2000 US Olympic Marathon Trials on May 7 when only one man made the team. “The coronavirus canceled the Olympics and now it’s canceled LetsRun.com.
“It’s never been easy to make a living while giving away everything for free, but the decline in the online ad markets over the last few weeks has been unprecedented. Couple that with the fact that online ad marketplaces have gotten much better at tracking people in recent years and our revenue has almost entirely dried up. The advertisers now know that most of our visitors haven’t achieved the ‘LetsRun triple.’ While many have the potential to make well over $250,000 a year, the reality is most of them have never had a full-time job and are living in mom and dad’s basement still chasing that final PR before Father Time gets to them.”
Robert Johnson, Weldon’s brother and the website’s co-founder, didn’t want to talk on the phone. He issued the following statement via email.
Weldon keeps telling me our demise is all the result of COVID-19. That’s hard for me to believe, but maybe that’s because I live in Baltimore, where in the month of March we’ve had 18 killed by murder and only 3 by the coronavirus. Ironically, given the leading role we’ve played during the last two decades in the anti-doping movement, I blame our demise on Travis Tygart and USADA. Once Alberto Salazar got banned, the messageboard traffic really plummeted. People had been speculating about drugs in regards to Athletics West and Salazar since our founding, but now that that storyline has come to a conclusion, there isn’t anything left to talk about.
I begged Weldon to keep the site going until Salazar’s appeal is heard. If his ban gets overturned, the site could become profitable again. But with his baby due in early May, he told me can’t hold out any longer. He’s heard he can make six figures delivering for Instacart in San Fran and since he was used to sleeping in his car often high up in the mountains in Flagstaff, he’ll give that a go until the economy comes back. I feel for him as he won’t even get to see his daughter in person.
Weldon, the elder brother and brains behind the LetsRun.com operation, refused to take a negative view about the closure of the site.
“This isn’t a day for ‘woe is me.’ It’s been a great run and I’m really proud of the contributions the platform has made to elevating distance running. When we started the website, the marathon world records were 2:05:42 for the men and 2:20:43 for the women. Now a man has run 1:59:41 and a woman 2:14:04 and we’ve certainly played a role in that, both by developing a platform where coaching advice could spread and by actually pacing two of those world records, one for Catherine Ndereba and one for Paula Radcliffe. Social justice warriors be damned, I’m most proud of the role we’ve played in elevating women’s distance running across the globe. That’s what I hope people will remember us for,” said Weldon.
Talk about LRC’s demise on our world famous messageboard. MB: Sad News: LetsRun.com is bankrupt and the site black on May 7, 2020.
Great moments from LRC’s history appear below.