Monday, March 19, 2012

Half Marathon Statistics and Trends

Since 2003, the half-marathon has been the fastest growing road race distance in the U.S.  Just the increase in the official "finishers" is surprising:
20091,113,000 (record high)
With the introduction of the Tinkerbell HM, the expansions to the RNR Half Marathon series, as well as trend in the Divas Half Marathon and Nike Women's Half Marathon series....its easy to predict that this distance will continue to be the "it" distance through the next decade, especially for women.  In fact, just a few years ago, women were the minority and women are now overwhelmingly the majority.

The Sarasota Half Marathon recently announed that 67% of the early registrered runners were female.  By the look of the RNR St Pete Half, this percentage seems accurate as well....seems like the half marathon is quickly becoming a female-only club!  But what is equally interesting is the fact that given the huge increase in new runners, the median time for women has only slipped a tad, during the same period.  One would presume that if you have this flurry of non-runners entering the sport, the median times would reduce dramatically!  Not maybe the new runners are truly pushing themselves more than in the past?  And yet, men's times are being negatively affected as well (even their representation is actually reducing)....but I have no explantion for that, except that maybe men are tending to push themselves more to the marathon (as this is the only distance that they have a clear majority in now).

I think the reduction in times is nothing to be ashamed of...if anything, its great!  Decades ago, if you were not an elite (or aspiring to be an elite) athlete, you simply didn't run.  A marathon course would never be open for 8 hours!  But now, with the mass influx of new runners into the sport (eg people like me!) it seems that the focus is getting people out there and being active, and to compete against themselves with more comraderie to their fellow runners.  Even the 5k has seen tremendous growth!  At one time as well, you only saw gizelles run the 5k, and now all shapes and sizes run.  True, as a country we still need to focus on obtaining a healthy weight, but at least our muscle/bone/cardio strength is improving as a nation!  So, even if you are not perceived to be "fit", you join races now!  Its a great trend, especially since we are seeing obesity strike the young now...and we have to curb this current generation from handing their souls to McDonalds!

Other half-marathon “boom” facts:
  • In the past decade (2000-09), U.S. half-marathon finishers have grown from 482,000 to 1,113,000, a 131% increase; the 5K, the most popular distance, is a distant second with a solid 40% growth over the same period.
  • Since 2002, more than 20 U.S. half-marathons annually had their inaugural running.
  • Twenty of the top 30 largest U.S. half-marathons (greater than 8,000 finishers) are less than 10 years old or rebranded.
  • In 2009, there were a record 17 U.S. half-marathons with 10,000 finishers or more; in 2000, there was one.
  • The half currently has the largest female percent (57%) of any U.S. road distance; the percent flipped to a female majority in 2005, and by contrast, in 1985, the female percent was less than 20% in 13.1 mile races.
The source for all of these statistics can be found here.  But, if you read the details, please share with us any insights you have gained....what puzzles you?  What statistics surprise you?  Is your view of running in line with the numbers?

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