August 18 2017
One runner shares her long history with ultrarunning and explains how the sport helped her heal from a major surgical mistake.
According to 2017 Running USA State of the Sport Report there are several trends emerging in running and racing. For the third straight year the number of road race finishers has declined in the U.S., dropping to under 17 million for the first time since 2012. Let’s take a closer look into why and what it means for the future of racing.
The Industry Pace Is Finally Slowing
Despite the decline, the finisher total leveled off from the 9 percent decline seen in 2015, while the 2016 finisher total ranks as the fourth largest in history.
Fewer Races But Higher Quality
As the industry continues to look for ways to keep runners racing and their events growing, the decline is also being seen as a check on disorganized, functionally unsound races, seeing those with unsustainable structures leave the marketplace, allowing better organized and structured events to strengthen their foothold.
“While finisher totals continue to fall, however slightly, there are a number of positive signs for the industry,” said Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger. “As race directors react to declining participation numbers, what we’re seeing is more of them increase value and create better experiences for their runners, partners, charities and communities.”
The 5K Is Queen?
The 5K distance saw an increase in finishers in 2016, with 8,242,500 runners crossing the finish line. However, the 10K, half marathon and other various distances saw decreases of 4 percent or greater. The marathon finisher total remained flat.
Females Dominate Finish Lines
Females account for 9.7 million finishers nationwide and continue to represent 57 percent from event fields. Males in 2016 represented 7.3 million finishers in U.S. races. Overall, there were 16,957,100 finishers in U.S. running events, down 1 percent from 2015.
Getting Better with Age
The 25 to 44 year old age group continues to be the sweet spot for running, accounting for 49 percent of finishers.
Runners are demanding higher quality events and show their numbers when quality and organization is upheld. Females continue to dominate finish lines, coming out in droves to run longer and stronger…in age that is. The shorter distances remain the most popular perhaps because there are more of them or it’s easier to fit training for a 5k into a an already busy life.
With the sharp decline in obstacle and other themed races, it will be interesting to see where the trend heads next and how much more creative race directors can be without sacrificing our high expectations.