Statistically Speaking – Running is Off the Charts Popular!

Running is Popular and Really Big Business!


As I was mentally drifting during one of my runs this week, I was thinking about the popularity of running and how it’s grown over the years.  And honestly, since I’m finishing up my book, I was also wondering how big the running market really is, and the extent of my potential reach, so I did some fact-finding digging.

First, I know that running’s popular, much more popular than when I first started running marathons in the late-1980s.  I was, however, blown away to find out it’s over a $2.6 billion dollar industry.  Wow!  That’s a lot of scratch (and gels, orthotics and clothing, etc.).

To illustrate, in 1995, roughly seven years after I ran my first marathon, total entries were about 74% men and 26% women.  Today, 59% are men and 41% are women.  Conversely, half-marathons entries today are flipped; 59% women and 41% men.

Another staggering statistic:  In 1990 there were 143,000 marathon finishers; in 2011 there were 518,000 finishers.  Now that’s growth!  Even more amazing, since 2000, half-marathon finishers grew from 482,000 to 1,610,000!  Marathon times have also changed; the median time for finishers in 1995 was 3:54 for men and 4:03 for women.  In 2011, mens’ median time was 4:16 and women’s was 4:42.  This tells me that many average people are deciding to get their butts off the couch, get into shape, and are looking at a marathon (or half-marathon) as their conquest.

Another factoid:  core runners who recently completed marathons, were shown to have run an average of four days per week, with an average of just under 30 miles per week.  Also, core runners purchased at least two pairs of running shoes and spent an average of $100 on running apparel in a period of 12 months.  Okay, so on an entrepreneurial note, I’m calculating that’s three times what my book will cost (yes, a shameless plug – my bookOne Foot in Front of the Other” should open for pre-sale in the next few months for approx. $25).  As an aside, as always, I ask that you support your local running stores and running clubs.

Obviously, marathons are becoming very popular.  As proof, in 2000, there were approximately 300 marathons in the United States.  In 2011, there were a total of  720.  That’s just amazing – over a 100% increase!  Today, for the more popular marathons, if you don’t sign-up as soon as registration opens,  you may not get in.  Just four years ago, if you qualified for Boston, you would have no problem getting in up until a month before the race.  This year, it sold out in eight hours, and they additionally changed the qualifying times and entry process, making it even more difficult to qualify and actually enter.

So, will this growth pattern last?  Personally, I think it will.  People everywhere are experiencing the physical and mental benefits of running.  Running is a social outlet and has provided many people with an inexpensive activity during the recent recession.  How many industries actually grow in excess of 10% annually during a bad economy?  Running has!

I also wonder how many marriages are attributed to running?  And of course, how many children were therefore brought into this world from these marriages.  I can tell you that just in our Denver Running Group, since I joined (approx. six yrs. ago) there have been three marriages and, as of last count, two children.  Awesome!

So, “statistically speaking” – running is really and truly off the charts popular!

Thanks to and their 2012 Marathon report for some of these statistics.

Have some fun running-related statistics? Post them!


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Categories: Crazy Observations, Running Related, Social Media, Twitter
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  • Dave N. says:
    April 11, 2012 12:15 PM

    The 2012 Marine Corps Marathon, with 30,000 participants, sold out in 2 hours, 41 minutes on March 7th, 7 months before the race.

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