Go on a site like www.active.com or www.runningintheusa.com and you’ll find hundreds of races of all kinds happening all over the U.S. in the coming year. While more and more runners join the sport each year, growth in the number of races and in the turnout for many races has outpaced the growth of the sport in general.
There are some fascinating stats published in Running USA’s latest National Runner Survey (http://www.runningusa.org/statistics). Anyone who loves seeing the sport grow will have a lot of fun and get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the most recent statistics. It all adds up to 2012 being a banner year for running races. Here’s what’s happening:
From 2005 to 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), the number of road race finishers increased by 35%, to 13 million. That’s a much bigger increase than the 9% seen from 2000 to 2005. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the increased interest in racing has continued over the past couple of years, with 2012 set to be a record-setting year in terms of race participation.
So where are all these new racers coming from, you ask? Overwhelmingly, the growth comes from female runners, who represented over 50% of race finishers in 2010 (53%, to be exact). The number of female finishers grew from 3.6 million in 2000 to 6.9 million in 2010. Male finishers went from almost 5 million to just over 6 million.
Again according to the National Runner Survey, the number of participants in half marathons has skyrocketed. Half-marathon finishers rose from 482,000 in 2000 to 1,385,000 in 2010, an increase of almost 200%. In comparison, over the same time frame the number of marathon finishers rose by only 44%.
For starters, the clear message is that if you have your eye on a particular race, make sure to register early. Many of the country’s most popular races are set to sell out early, so you better get your bib number well in advance.
Bigger race turnout also means you’ll have more opportunities to connect with runners in your area and at your skill level. Here’s a good New Year’s Resolution (if you don’t have a few already): make a new friend at the next running event you attend. What better way to feel like a part of the growing run community?