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Running USA’s State Of The Sport 2009: Part II

  • By Sean McKeon
  • Published Aug. 3, 2009

Source: Running USA Wire

The relatively new sport of road running which had a female / male ratio of 28 / 72 for race participants just fifteen years ago has evolved to mirror the overall U.S. population in more recent years. Today, buyers of running shoes, finishers in running events and more casual runners who run once or twice a week have about a 50 / 50 gender split.

Table 1: Gender Distribution in Running Populations – Female% / Male%

1993 1998 2002 2006 2008
Running/Jogging Shoe Users (NSGA-2) 38.4 / 61.6 43.0 / 57.0 44.3 / 55.7 52.1 / 47.9 53.0 / 47.0
All Running Event Finishers (RUSA) 28.0 / 72.0 39.0 / 61.0 49.8 / 50.2 52.0 / 48.0 53.0 / 47.0
Timed Road Race Finishers (RUSA) 28.0 / 72.0 36.0 / 64.0 45.5 / 54.5 48.9 / 51.1 51.0 / 49.0
Runners, ran at least once/yr (NSGA) 45.7 / 54.3 46.0 / 54.0 47.8 / 52.2 48.0 / 52.0
Runner’s World Subscriber Study (RWMG) 38.7 / 61.3 53.7 / 46.3 47.4 / 52.6 48.6 / 51.4

As Running USA has noted in the past, participants in the sport and activity of running look like the typical extended American family with a better than average income and education. The son runs in recess, the daughter runs to stay in shape in between college courses, the father runs to relieve stress and to improve his best time, the mother runs to lose weight and raise money for her favorite charity and the grandfather enjoys his daily jog around the neighborhood and the annual turkey trot. Thus running can be a very flexible vehicle for marketing – representing the entire population or just one member of the ”family” depending on the desired objectives.

Running Magazine Subscribers: Affluent and Well Educated

Runner’s World Media Group (RWMG) has surveyed the subscribers of Runner’s World magazine (RW) and published useful runner demographics for more than twenty years. In 2008, they also surveyed the slightly more competitive population of Running Times (RT). Excerpts from the 2008 Subscriber Study are provided below. These demographics provide a view of typical road runners as opposed to the more general population of runners and joggers described by NSGA. The latter include many young people who run as part of their regular school day.

Table 2: Runner Profile Highlights from 2008 Runner’s World Subscriber Study [and Running Times]

Gender: Women 51.4% / Men 48.6% [RT: Women 35.1% / Men 64.9%]

Median Age: 40.6 years old [43.8 years]

College Educated: 93.5% [93.0%]

Graduated College+: 74% [72.8%]

Married: 68% [70.9%]

Number of people in household: 2.7 people [2.8 people]

Individual employment income before taxes, mean average: $75,200 [$81,900]

Household employment income before taxes, mean average: $133,000 [$145,000]

Household net worth, mean average: $785,000 [$1,033,000]

From 2008 Runner’s World and Running Times Subscriber Study, Erdos and Morgan

Age Group Distribution in Running Populations

As the table below illustrates, there has been no significant change in the average age of running event finishers compiled by Running USA from 2003 to 2008. The typical male race participant in 2008 was 38 years old and about 3 years older than the typical female. The difference was closer to 3.5 years in previous years and the age of the males seems to be decreasing, but it will take another year or two to see if this is a meaningful trend. The modest increase in female Junior runners (19 years or younger) seen in the previous 5 or 6 years has leveled off and was replaced by growth in the younger male segment in 2008.

Table 3: Average Age (Mean) in Running Populations

2003 2005 2006 2008
Timed Road Race Finishers: Average Age (RUSA) 36.8 yrs 36.8 yrs 36.6 yrs 36.3 yrs
Female Finishers in Timed Road Races: Average Age (RUSA) 34.9 yrs 34.9 yrs 34.8 yrs 34.8 yrs
Female Frequent Runners/Joggers, 110+days/yr: Average Age (NSGA) 29.5 yrs 26.3 yrs 31.3 yrs 32.6 yrs
Male Finishers in Timed Road Races: Average Age (RUSA) 38.5 yrs 38.6 yrs 38.3 yrs 37.8 yrs
Male Frequent Runners/Joggers, 110+ days/yr: Average Age (NSGA) 34.4 yrs 29.1 yrs 30.5 yrs 35.5 yrs

The trend toward a slightly younger running event population is also seen in the breakdown of Juniors, Open and Masters runners (40 years and over) from 2002 to 2008 (see Table 4). The percent of females that are masters has decreased from 35.6% to 34% during the seven years whereas the percent of male masters has decreased from 47.3% to 45%. The senior men and women (60 years+) remain a small group with only 6.1% and 2.9% respectively of their gender.

Table 4: Age Group Distribution of Timed Road Race Finishers (Running USA)

2002 2005 2006 2008
Females: Juniors 19 & under 8.6% 9.2% 10.0% 9.8%
Females: Open 20-39 yrs 55.8% 56.3% 55.7% 56.2%
Females: Masters 40 yrs+ 35.6% 34.5% 34.3% 34.0%
Females: Seniors 60 yrs+ 2.9% 2.6% 2.7% 2.9%
Males: Juniors 19 & under 7.8% 9.1% 10.0% 10.6%
Males: Open 20-39 yrs 44.9% 43.1% 43.1% 44.3%
Males: Masters 40 yrs+ 47.3% 47.8% 47.0% 45.0%
Males: Seniors 60 yrs+ 5.3% 5.7% 5.8% 6.1%

Look for State of the Sport Part III Growth Trends in Road Races and Part IV Largest Races in upcoming Running USA wires.

Sources for Part II

Active.com = The Active Network provided Running USA with comprehensive running event results to use in Running USA’s data compilation and analysis for this report. An event calendar and complete race results for many U.S. events can be found on Active.com.

NSGA = National Sporting Goods Association. NSGA Sports Participation in 2003, 2005 and 2006 and 2008 Series I. (2) = NSGA Sporting Goods Market in 1993, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008. To obtain information on any of the NSGA products and services email [info@nsga.org], phone (847) 296-6742 or go to NSGA.org.

Running USA and its RRIC (Road Running Information Center) compile running statistics and publish the annual Marathon and State of the Sport reports. Many types of running data and lists of the Largest Races from past years can be found on RunningUSA.org in the “Statistics” section. All running event data comes from comprehensive results which in the last 3 years have been collected by Active.com. In even numbered years, Running USA publishes results of the National Runner Survey which profiles the U.S. active road running population. For other questions about running trends and demographics, contact Media Director Ryan Lamppa [ryan@runningusa.org] or Research Director Tracy Yoder [tracy@runningusa.org].

RWMG = Runner’s World Media Group is the leading authority on running information with more than 50 million touch points worldwide. They publish both Runner’s World and Running Times magazines, serve the world’s largest online running community at www.runnersworld.com and www.runningtimes.com, and deliver custom multi-media events nationwide. Subscriber highlights are from the 2008 Runner’s World Subscriber Study conducted by Erdos and Morgan. For more information, contact Sue Hartman, Associate Publisher/Marketing at [sue.hartman@rodale.com] or (610) 967-8316.

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