Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Running the Numbers

It seems like I’ve been training forever, doesn’t it? With the exception of June and part of July, my entire year thus far has been preparation for an ultra-marathon, which is very new for my body and my mind. However, I can honestly say that combination of increased physical activity and better nutrition has paid off in dividends. Not only do I feel more confident about my running, but more satisfied with my body and motivated to monitor my health more closely. It doesn’t hurt to have an incredibly supportive partner either, especially when the alarm is going off at 3:30AM so I can roll out of bed for a 5-hour training run.

How can you not love someone that recreates your favorite healthy restaurant salad as a buffet for a surprise birthday party?! ūüôā

Although I’d like to say that the numbers don’t matter to me, I’d be lying. I’ve always enjoyed math and statistics (I wouldn’t dare use them¬†interchangeably¬†for fear of incurring the wrath of¬†mathematicians¬†and¬†statisticians¬†everywhere!), so keeping track of all of the little ¬†(or not so little) numbers is quite enjoyable for me.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one that likes numbers! I’m sure you’re shocked. RunningUSA, in their annual State of the Sport series, conducts a running survey every year to examine how the sport changes over time. I may have spent far more time than I should have poring over the findings and geeking out just a bit ūüôā I won’t overwhelm you with a full recap of their findings, but I would like to share a few interesting numbers.

  • In 1980, 10% of marathon finishers were women. By 2011, that number had increased to 41%.
  • The median time for marathon finishers has increased quite a bit since 1980. For men, the time went from 3:32 to 4:16. For women, the time moved from 4:03 to 4:42.
  • Approximately 25,000 people finished a marathon in 1976. by 2011, that number had jumped to 518,000! However, the Half Marathon has grown even more, reaching an all-time high of over 1.6 million finishers in 2011.
  • As of 2011, women outnumbered men in every race except the marathon.
  • Female race finishers (5k, 10K, HM, M) are typically younger than male race finishers.

Photo Credit:

Needless to say, the sport is continuing to grow at record rates, which is exciting on many different levels. Not only does it mean that the quality of race options will continue to increase, but running products will improve, resources will expand, and the accessibility of running for more people will become a reality. Unfortunately, despite running being historically billed as the cheapest and easiest sport to participate in, the same is not true if you want a medal around your neck. I’m hopeful that we’ll see race prices go down and groups implement sliding fee scales and other approaches to open up this aspect of the sport to more people.

Now, back to the numbers. As enthralled as I was by the national numbers, I found myself equally excited by my own numbers (this year) when I actually sat down to add them up thus far!

Days run: 211

Miles run: 1937.73

Hours logged: 326 hours

To put those numbers in perspective, I have run the distance from Minneapolis, MN to Los Angeles, CA this year, and have done so in a little under two weeks. This is certainly by far my most prolific year of running in a very short history, and I still have almost three months left to go. I can’t wait to see where my distance ends up on December 31st…then I’ll have a new goal for 2013!

Not bad for 10 months worth of running, eh?


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