Sadly, I believe my days of running marathons are over, as local 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons now hold more appeal for me for various reasons. That’s not the case for 507,000 or so of my closest running buddies, however.
More than half a million runners finished the 26.2 mile distance in 2010, according to estimates by Running USA, a running industry-supported research group. That represents about a 9% increase over the number of marathon finishers in 2009, and comes on the heels (pun intended) of a 9.9% gain in finishers from 2008 to 2009.
Of course, that's quite a difference from the 25,000 estimated marathon finishers in 1976 when those who enjoyed running long distances were perceived as being in a rare and very strange fraternity existing on the fringes of normal society. Then again, maybe some things haven't changed that much!
Why so many, and why has the number continued to climb? Reasons given include simply the challenge of running 26.2 miles, along with the “bucket list” appeal of such an achievement. Other reasons include an increase in the availability of marathon training programs for first-time marathon participants, growth in the number of female runners, and the total number of marathons that are now being staged. Indeed, last year saw 35 new marathons spring up in the U.S. (although only one had over a thousand finishers).
But in the opinion of some other experts, “it’s the economy stupid!” Yep, one of the joys of running is taking part in a recession-friendly sport that helps relieve stress during times of financial upheaval and costs relatively little. All you need are some shoes, socks, shorts, a shirt, and you’re out the door. Gotta love it!
Some other statistics from the report:
- Marathons with the fastest median time: Boston (3:44:17); Bay State (3:47:42)
- Most finishers: New York City (44,977); Chicago (36,088)
- Most finishers with times over 6 hours (Honolulu -- can you blame them?)
- Gender of marathon finishers: 59%M; 41%F
- Median age of finishers: 37
Below are the estimated marathon finishers across selected years. And for what is probably more than you ever really wanted to know about marathons, you can check out the Running USA Marathon Report for yourself here. Happy Running!
Estimated U.S. Marathon Finishers by Year