Competitor Magazine Turns 30

Launched in the summer of 1987 from a 200-square-foot San Diego storage shed

It’s not exactly a blazing headline on the Competitor magazine website. But on the print side, there is no doubt–the publication is celebrating a June birthday.

The magazine was launched in June 1987 by Lois Schwartz and Bob Babbitt, with John Smith joining 10 months later to grow ad revenue. Schwartz, 74, and Babbitt, 66, are no longer involved, although Babbitt, a Chicago native, remains otherwise very active in the endurance industry since exiting in 2014. (Smith, 55, is today a senior VP with parent company Competitor Group Inc.).

As the intro for an interview piece with Babbitt commemorating this print marathon reminds, he raced 40 times in 2016, and this year at the Boston Marathon was outfitted ‘as usual, in his Elvis costume.’ Clothing was also an instrumental part of the initial stages of the magazine. From the Q&A:

“In the early days, we couldn’t pay our print bill. So I would drive to L.A. to supplement our dollars. This was when bodybuilding pants were big. I would buy these pants, and we’d get free booths in the race expos for Competitor, and I’d sell the pants then use the dollars from that to help pay our bills. There were some months we made more selling pants than from selling ads.”

“And every once in a while, a client couldn’t pay their bill with us so they’d give us a lot of their product—like sunglasses. So we’d sell them at the expos too to help pay our bills.

All these years later, Competitor is a solid fit for sponsored content. For example, if you’re a runner and in the market for a GPS watch, there’s this item touting Garmin.

Competitor magazine is available for free at gyms, running stores and various other retail locations. The aforementioned parent company also owns and operates Women’s Running, Triathlete, Velo News and Velo Press. Happy anniversary!

Bob Babbitt
Competitor magazine