Is the marathon boom over?
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Is the boom gone from the marathon? This question was asked after modest U.S. marathon finisher growth in 2012 compared to previous years.
For the first time since 2001, according to Running USA, the estimated number of U.S. marathon finishers declined from a record 518,000 in 2011 to 487,000 in 2012 (a 6 percent decrease). Like in 2001, however, most of the decline can be attributed to unique situations: in 2001, post-Sept. 11 travel impacted fall marathons, and in 2012, the ING New York City Marathon was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy. With more than 47,000 finishers in 2011 (9 percent of the U.S. total), New York is the world’s largest marathon.
If the sold-out NYC Marathon had been held last year, there is no doubt that the 2012 overall marathon finisher total would have exceeded the 2011 figure. In addition, there was a 1.6 percent increase in finishers from the same 388 U.S. marathons for 2011 and 2012 (464,122 vs. 471,595), a 1 percent increase from the same 367 marathons in 2010 and 2011 (495,135 vs. 500,206).
Over the past 15 years, U.S. marathons collectively have averaged just under 2.5 percent finisher growth per year. So although 2012’s growth rate of 1.6 percent for the same marathons for both years was below the annual average, it was not a significant decline.
It’s premature to say that U.S. marathon growth has lost its bloom. Plus, some of the marathon’s declining finisher numbers can be attributed to the popularity of the half-marathon, the fastest growing road race distance in the United States since 2003 — 2012 was another record finisher year for the 13.1 mile.
From: Running USA