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Steve Wagner / Bemidji Pioneer , Published March 04 2012

Participation numbers for 26.2-mile distance increase

Each year Running USA tabulates marathon statistics and surveys runners to track changes, trends and attitudes in our sport.

And the 2011 numbers show the 26.2-mile distance continues to grow, albeit at a slower rate than the past few years.

There were about 518,000 marathon finishers, a record, in 720 races in the U.S. last year, up about 2.2 percent from the 507,000 finishers in 2010. In 2009, there were about 467,000 marathon finishers.

“Part of the slowing growth for the 26.2-mile distance may be attributed to the explosive growth of the half-marathon over the past five years in the U.S. as runners either have moved down from their first or second marathon to the half-marathon or see the half-marathon as a more manageable, but as challenging distance for their time and aspirations,” Running USA wrote in its report released in late February.

The report also shows some other interesting statistics: For women, the average finisher’s age was 36.2 years while the median finishing time was 4 hours, 42 minutes, 15 seconds – or 15 seconds slower than in 2010.

For men, the average finisher’s age was 39.9 years and the median finishing time was 4:16:34. Like the women, the men’s median time was 20 seconds slower than the previous year.

In 1985, there were about 200 marathons in the U.S. By 2000, the number increased to 300. Of last year’s record 720 marathons, there were 94 races with 1,000 or more finishers. Outside of the U.S., there were two Japan marathons with more than 20,000 finishers in their inaugural race.

Also, Running USA surveyed more than 11,800 core runners nationwide. Those who completed a marathon in the previous two years said they ran approximately 4.4 days per week for an average of 29.4 miles. “They also purchased approximately four pairs of running shoes and 83 percent had spent $100 or more on running apparel in the last 12 months,” Running USA reported.

For more information, go online to www. runningusa.org.


Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@bemidjipioneer.com