A blog by runners. For runners.

Behind the racing boom: why more people than ever are running

What is behind the racing boom?

Does your favorite running route feel a little more crowded lately? It’s because more people are running now than ever before. According to Running USA’s State of the Sport report for 2014, the number of Americans who run more than 25 times per year has increased by 60 percent in the past decade alone.

A lot of this is thanks to racing. The half marathon has become the most popular race distance. In 2012, 1.85 million people crossed the finish line of a half – a 284 percent increase since the year 2000. The half likely earned the top spot because it’s challenging enough but it’s not nearly as intimidating – and doesn’t require as much of a time commitment – as training for a full marathon.

All race distances are gaining in popularity, and a new crop of events have popped up over the last 5 years. These non-traditional events – think color, obstacle, and mud runs – are more of an experience, not a competition as many aren’t even timed. There are now a whopping 35 non-traditional racing series nationwide. Four million people participated in these events in 2013 alone.

So, what’s driving the racing boom? There are a lot of factors, including:

  • Women. In the span of 40 years, women have gone from not being allowed to participate in running events to dominating the sport. In 2012, 56 percent of all race finishers were female.
  • Charities. If you want to raise money for a cause dear to your heart, one of the easiest ways to do that is by joining a running charity group. Some groups handle all training, travel, and race arrangements for you – all you have to do is raise the money.
  • Easy access. In many areas of the country, there are several races every single weekend. You no longer have to travel far – unless you want to – to race.
  • The “if he can do it, so can I” mindset. Years ago, distance running used to be a sport only super fit people would do. But nowadays, it’s acceptable to walk races. It’s not uncommon for someone to hear about a friend who just completed a race and to think “if she can do it, I can do it too”. Plus, you can pick up the sport at any age.
  • The “bucket list” effect. “Run a marathon” tops many peoples’ bucket lists.
  • Good health and weight loss. Thanks to the obesity epidemic, many people are looking to take control of their health. Running burns a ton of calories, and helps manage weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. But it’s tough for many people to stick to an exercise plan without a goal. Having a race on the calendar is the perfect way to stay motivated.
  • A chance to socialize. The running community as a whole is very welcoming. If you want to make friends, join a running group. It doesn’t matter what your pace is, chances are you can find someone to run with you – and grab a beer with you afterwards.
  • It’s trendy. Scroll through your social media feeds and you’re bound to see a friend or two showing off their race bling every weekend.
  • It’s fun. That’s why so many of us are repeat offenders. Nothing beats the endorphins that strike at the finish line.

Why do you race?

Written by Jen Matz.

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