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Study: U.S. Experiencing Second Running Boom

  • By Duncan Larkin
  • Published Jul. 22, 2011
  • Updated Jul. 22, 2011 at 9:18 AM UTC

Last year had the highest percent increase in overall finisher totals in nearly three decades.

From: Running USA

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Second Running Boom, despite the slow U.S. economy, continued in 2010 with an estimated 13 million finishers nationwide, an all-time high, and the largest percent increase (10%) in road race finishers that Running USA has ever reported to-date. Fueling this growth is the increase in half-marathon, 5K and marathon finishers, female finishers, the increase in charity running and a growing interest in the sport from the general population.

Put simply, more and more Americans are finding that running is an inexpensive, convenient, social sport to help them stay healthy and to tackle a new challenge or goal. As Running USA’s National Runner Survey reported, today’s runners are motivated to stay in shape, stay healthy, have fun and relieve stress. As new and returning runners enter the sport and road races, we will continue to see a tremendous amount of growth in overall finisher totals, as experienced in the last two years.

2010 U.S. Road Running Snapshot:

2010 had the highest percent increase in overall finisher totals (10%) in nearly three decades. Growth such as this hasn’t been seen since the pre-Second Running Boom in 1992 (9.2%) and recently, 2009 (9.0%), and based on preliminary totals, 2011 should also show above average growth as well in this country.

Females now account for nearly 6.9 million finishers nationwide (a record number) and represent 53% of event fields, compared to only 25% in 1990 which had 4.15 million overall finishers, while males in 2010 also set a new high with more than 6.1 million finishers in U.S. road races.

Total U.S. running events exceeded 22,800, an all-time record high.

2010 produced a record annual increase (tie with 2009) in total finishers for the Half-Marathon (24%) and nearly a 9% increase in Marathon finishers, which is the second largest percent increase for the classic distance in the past 25 years.

For the first time ever, the Half-Marathon now claims more finishers than the 10K, ranking #2 next to the 5K in finishers. Females continue to dominate the Half-Marathon race field with 59% representation.

The 5K is still handily the road race “King of the Hill” with nearly 4.7 million finishers (yes, another record) and had 36% of all finishers in 2010; the universal 3.1 mile distance has been #1 in the U.S. since 1994 when it surpassed the 10K.

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Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin is the news editor at Competitor.com and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last July.

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