Running is simply running. It’s just putting your foot in front of your other on roads, trails or treadmills. Running trends change year-to-year, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be the same. Over the last several decades I have been involved in running, both as a lifestyle and business. I have seen subtle trends and more prominent ones. Running USA, the largest association in the running industry, publishes a National Runner Survey every year. This survey is based upon responses from over 4,000 runners. Here’s what it says about the state and future of running.
Who are the Runners?
The US has slightly more female runners (54% male) than it does men, and six out of ten are between 25 and 44 years old. However, 23% of US runners were 55 years old or older. This may indicate that age is not a major barrier to running. Half the respondents prefer to run alone, while half of them prefer to run with others or with a local club or group.
Three quarters of respondents said they run all year. Average weekly distance a person runs is 23 miles. The majority of runners (58%) prefer running in the morning. Road is the most popular surface. It was shocking to discover that only five percent (or less) of runners in the US are “trail runners.”
They are available online.
Social media is a part of almost every aspect of our lives. Running is no exception. Six out of 10 people follow a running-related social media account: Facebook to communicate, share, fundraise, and share; Instagram to connect with others and find running inspiration. Half of race enthusiasts share their experiences on social media.
What Does It Cost to Embrace Technology?
We like to track our progress and quantify it with the help of products and devices. 70% of runners use a GPS and fitness trackers. Only 18% of runners surveyed used a Fitbit Ionic that can track their heart rate. This surprised me because my Ionic tracks heart rate easily and doesn’t need a separate chest strap (which could be irritating). Running enthusiasts love to listen to music. 46% of runners have a portable music device. I also do it through my Ionic. It stores the music and doesn’t require additional hardware.
How far are they running?
The most surprising thing to me was the breakdown in running event participation. I am a marathoner and was shocked to discover that only 3% are ultramarathoners. It was my assumption that everyone did ultramarathons. The half-marathon is the most popular distance, with over 2.3 million people running a half-marathon in 2018, and 518.916 finishing a full-marathon. Only 110,011 people completed an ultra marathon.
Ultramarathoning, however, is the fastest-growing segment. 1993, the year that I ran my first ultramarathon, was a very obscure year. It’s not unusual to see ultramarathoning mentioned in the news or read about it in the papers. Ultramarathoning is now part of the mainstream vocabulary and continues to grow in popularity.
Take a look at the future
Another prediction I have is that more people will be taking to the trails. This so-called “road to trail conversion” is taking place faster than most people realize. This is a major trend in running that I see, and I expect future poll numbers to reflect this shift. There are too many benefits to running on a trail than on the road. You have no traffic, better air quality and beautiful scenery. It is also easier to run on than pavement. This makes it more attractive to more participants.
Here’s the latest stats on the state of the sport. These stats are fascinating, but let’s not forget the key drivers of this incredible growth. Running is easy, it’s healthy, it boosts awareness of the environment, and it just rocks. That’s something no survey can measure.
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