Each year since 1995, Running USA has documented the ‘state of running’ in terms of road races. They have looked at the total number of finishers of official races, as well as how those numbers are distributed by race, age, and gender. For every one of the last 20 years except 2003, there have been new records set in every aspect of road races as covered by Running USA. They released the numbers for 2012 last week, and as that was my first year of participating in road races I was intrigued to see the numbers.
If you want all of the details head here, but here are a few highlights:
- The 5k unsurprisingly remains the largest race type, with 57% of events and ~40% of finishers.
- The second largest event type is the half-marathon, with 7% of events and ~12% of finishers.
- The 10k has 12% of events but under 10% of finishers, while the marathon has about 3% of events and finishers.
The biggest news has been the continued explosive growth of so many ‘specialty’ runs. Color Run is the biggest 5K series, and there are also ‘Mud Runs’, obstacle and gladiator challenges, and so on. The question Running USA asks about these events – are they creating new runners, or are they ‘fun & done’ events where pretty much anyone can finish without concern for time? In other words, are people running these events for the running or the event?
The demographics are also very interesting in several ways. The report breaks things down by age and gender. One interesting note is how things have changed in terms of the distribution of runners even since 2000! Here are a couple of interesting notes:
- In terms of gender women now comprise 56% of finishers (8.2 million) compared to 6.2 million men (44%). In 2000 the numbers were basically reversed.
- Women are completing more races close to the 60:40 ratio in 5K, 10k and half-marathons – with the 13.1 mile distance having the largest fraction of female finishers.
- Men only outnumber women at the 26.2 marathon distance.
- In terms of age, more than half of finishers are between 25 – 44. Women are distributed more towards the 25-34, with men evenly split.
- There are more older men than women racing, reflecting the longer standing tradition of men involved in road races.
- Male finishers are on average ~2.5 years older than female finishers, with the age gap widening along with the distance – at the marathon, male finishers are nearly 4 years older than females on average.
Of course 2012 was also notable for the cancellation of the New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which definitely impacted the numbers for marathons.
In 2012, I ran three 5ks, an 8k, 2 half-marathons and a full marathon. This year, due to work travel, I have cut back on shorter races and am doing 2 half-marathons and 2 full marathons. What did you do in 2012, and what are you doing in 2013?