New U.S. Marathons and Halfs Report Reveals Participation is Declining

Running USA has released their annual marathon and half marathon reports for 2016, offering statistics and finisher insights for each distance. For the second year in a row, participation has declined in both events, down from a record high in 2014.

Last year, 507,600 people completed 26.2 miles in the United States. Among those participants, women made up 44 percent of marathon finishers in 2016, showing no change from the 2015 report. Meanwhile the half marathon continues to be one of the most popular races in the U.S. Even with a drop in participation, 1.9 million people still finished the distance. Women made up the majority of finishers in 2016, holding steady at 60 percent—the same percentage as 2015.

Biggest Marathons and Half Marathons

Once again, the TCS New York City Marathon was the largest marathon in the United States, with over 51,000 finishers. Following NYC was the Bank of America Chicago Marathon with over 40,000 participants. The Boston Marathon was the third largest, with over 26,000 finishers. Overall, 86 marathons had over 1,000 finishers—down from 90 in 2015.

The Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon topped the finisher list for 13.1-milers, with over 27,000 people taking part in the course that goes from Prospect Park to Coney Island. Among the top 15 races, four were runDisney events and four others were part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series. Amazingly, 31 half marathons had over 10,000 finishers.

Average Times Slowing Down

Average finishing times for both the marathon and half marathon slowed this year. Men had an average median marathon time of 4:22:07, while women ran a median time of 4:47:40. Both of these were the slowest median finishing times since 2005. For the half marathon, average median finishing time was 2:05:15 for males and 2:23:48 for females.

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Speediest Races

To find the fastest marathoners, though, it’s no surprise that you should head to Boston. 63 percent of finishers ran from Hopkinton to Boylston in under 4 hours. The Philadelphia Marathon was a distant second at 39 percent, followed by the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon at 31 percent.

The fastest half marathons last year were run in New York. Both the Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon and the NYC Half saw 45 percent of their finishers complete those races in under 2 hours. Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn was third, with 31 percent finishing sub-2, proving that fast runners love the city that never sleeps.

Age of Finishers

One statistic that didn’t change was the median age of marathon finishers. While the average age for males was 40, women stayed slightly younger at 37 years old. And for the second year in a row, masters runners made up the majority of marathon finishers. 50 percent of finishers fell into the 40 or older category.

The average age of half marathon finishers has barely changed as well. Similar to the marathon, the median age for male finishers was 39.4, while the median age for female finishers was 36.6. Unlike the marathon, though, open runners still held the majority of finisher spots for the half. 52 percent of participants were between 20-29 years old, while 44 percent fell into the Masters category.

For more information on this year’s studies, visit runningusa.org.

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