Why Is Running So Popular?

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Good morning! Happy Friday! 😎

I woke up hungry this morning. It’s a good thing that I made Overnight Oats in a Jar before bed last night. (I still can’t believe how quickly I plowed through that jar of almond butter!) In the mix: oats, soy milk, raisins, chia seeds, and ground flaxseed meal. As always: delicious.

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The August issue of Runner’s World features the most interesting article about whether today’s road races are overpriced– or undervalued. Some of the answers provided definitely surprised me!

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To register for the 2011 New York City Marathon, it cost me $207. Crazy, right? According the Runner’s World article, this fee is up $11 from last year’s race and $139 from 2000.

As you probably know, this race fee phenomenon is not unique to New York. (Remember how much I paid to register for the Rock ”˜N’ Roll Las Vegas!?! GAH!) Between 2006 and 2010, the average marathon entry fee in the US went from $66 to $85. Half marathons went from $46 to $62. The question is: Why? Runner’s World offers a number of answers in their article.

One of reasons given for these rising race fees is eager runners:

Despite escalating fees, there are more racers than ever. Since 2008, the number of finishers in all road-race distances has increased from 9.4 million to 12 million.

The article goes on to credit women runners for much of that growth:

Since 2008, female racers have represented the majority of runners crossing the finish line, and in 2010, they compromised 53 percent of total finishers.

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Yay for women runners!! 

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Question of the Day

Why do you think running has become more popular? If you’re a runner, how often do you participate in road races? Do fees ever hinder your participation? 

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106 Comments

  1. Honestly, because a lot of people love updating their twitter or facebook status to talk about running.

    When I first registered for my 1/2 marathon, I kept it quiet because it was a very personal decision of mine.

  2. Why do you think running has become more popular? = it’s fun, it’s a great workout, you can do it anywhere

    If you’re a runner, how often do you participate in road races? = used to be 3x a month. Now, never.

    Do fees ever hinder your participation? = yes for sure. Me and the hubs, and/or me + pay a babysitter b/c I refuse to race with a huge jogging stroller, so yes, it’s a quick $100 dollar morning, or nearly, and I’d rather just save the money and not race.

  3. I think it’s getting so popular because it’s so accessible to people, and as soon as someone hears how awesome your race was, they want to do it too.

    Fees are a HUGE factor in participation, especially because you often have to plan so far in advance and refunds aren’t usually an option.

  4. It’s advertised as a “cheap” sport because all you REALLY need are a pair of sneakers. And during these economic times, people are looking for a more thrifty way of life across the board.

    …but if I added up what I’ve spent in the past year since I took up running, I would be able to buy a new laptop, easy.

  5. Just FYI, there’s a typo here: “they compromised 53 percent of total finishers.” Should be comprised.

    It is interesting though, I guess the prices all go back to supply and demand!

  6. Wow, that’s a really interesting issue. I think running has become so popular because it’s so accessible – literally anyone can run without having to put up a hefty amount of money for equipment. I think I would probably do more races if they didn’t cost so much. Lately I haven’t been able to justify it when I could easily just go out and have a long run on my own. However, I guess it requires money to put on great races, and if there are more participants, then that just shows that people are realizing the importance of being active — that’s a good thing!

  7. I think people start running and become addicted to endorphins 🙂

    I run a number of races each year (including marathons) and the fees don’t deter me, although I think some are outrageous. I figure with all the training I end up going out less and spend less money so it all balances out 🙂

  8. I think it’s gotten more popular because it’s a really accessible sport. You can do it anywhere and (at least in my experiences) the running community is super helpful and welcoming to newbies. I’ve met some of the nicest (fastest) people by chatting with others at races and never felt looked down upon or like they thought less of me because I was clearly less experienced.

    Fees play a big part in what road races I’ll participate in. I love having races on my calendar because they motivate me to be consistent and not cheap out on miles I run but just from my 1/2 marathon and full marathon this year i’m out 300 dollars! (100 for 1/2 – 196 for full). So I have to be conscious of what races I’m spending my money on. By years end it will be close to 500 dollars on race entry fees. Totally worth it in my book, but still a nice chunk of change.

  9. Running is definitely one of the cheapest and most convenient forms of physical activity – even when you factor in the cost of shoes and race entry fees, it’s still cheaper than most gym memberships, so maybe the economy has something to do with it. I also wonder if social media plays a part — there’s a certain sense of community that comes with participating in races and I think that’s heightened with the increasing popularity of blogs, twitter, etc.

  10. Fees definitely play into whether or not I register. For SHORT distance races. I dont make a lot of cash to begin with, and I am a saver, so I am really picky about where I lay my dollars down. Having said that, I generally dont have a problem paying for 1/2 or full marathons no matter what (I also ran and paid for NYC and would do it again if they’d let me back in!). I registered for 3 marathons all within 3 months of each other so thats about $375. I dont do that often though. as like in NEVER.

    I just dont see the purpose of paying $25 -$45 for short distance races when I can run that for free no problem. Unless I have a shot of winning of course ;o) I will do a couple in the Spring because they have great schwag and/or post race parties.

  11. I’ve noticed a huge increase in participants in the half marathon I run each summer (Presque Isle). It’s gone from just under 600 in 2008 to almost 1200 last summer. I’m interested to see how many runners there are this weekend. Luckily the entrance fee is still reasonable at $27.

    I think a lot of people are running because it’s an attainable goal. Running helps people to feel like they’re still athletes after high school or college sports have ended.

    1. @Sarah Donovan: You do the Presque Isle Half?! I was training for that but I had to drop out! I’ve heard such good things about the course, but never gotten to talk to an actual runner about it.

      I know this is a hassle for you, but is there anyway you could tell me a little about the race? My name hyperlinks to my blog.

  12. I think running is so popular because it is something most people can do — it is a good workout, it is relatively cheap (just clothes, shoes and any race fees) and there is no feeling like finishing a race!

  13. I think because of the convenience of running, it can be very popular. I personally cannot afford a gym (although I’m lucky that my parents got me membership at one!), but I can step outside, turn on my iPod, and just go. Plus, there’s something about running outside in the summertime that an elliptical can’t compete with.

  14. My husband and I were just having this conversation with friends of ours a few weeks ago. We all agree that the popularity of running has definitely risen. I couldn’t tell whether or not it just seemed that way because of all the blogs I read, but they were all in agreement that running definitely seems to be gaining steam!

  15. I think Molly is on to something. I think that the Internet has made a “solitary sport” more of a team effort — you can get cheers on your Nike+ while you run, you can log how many miles you ran last week on The Daily Mile, you can be inspired at Carrots ‘n Cake, and on and on and on. I agree that it is not as “cheap” as it is touted to be: “just throw on a pair of shoes and go!” though it doesn’t have to be as expensive as I make it out to be, either!

    I’m still a fledgling runner, so I am not into racing much, but as I plan for them, I don’t look to do more than 3 or 4 per year due to the expense (I’ve already spent hundreds on shoes and gear training for them!) Yes, I have looked at a race (Rock and Roll specifically, as well as a few others) and said, “No way am I spending that kind of money on a race.” Last year I was registered — early AND with a discount, so it was almost a bargain for the Rock and Roll half here in Dallas. Sprained my ankle 3 days before. Hobbled into the expo to pick up my $75 shirt… Hate stuff like that.

  16. I read somewhere a while ago about the correlation of running and a low economy. Running always spikes in a low economy. It makes sense…although once you really get into the sport it’s not exactly cheap (re: RW article). But a pair of shoes and the open road is a lot less $$ than a gym membership or a team sport that requires arena rentals. Low economic times often envoke stress…where running can help…etc.

    I would also add social media. 10 years ago I had no idea people from my HS were running marathons…

    Just a few things to think about. Happy Runnin’! =)

  17. I just took my magazine out of my bag this morning! I will look for this article later 🙂

    As for running, I started 2 years ago as an “Easy” way to lose weight and it definitely helped! I don’t know why its so popular, maybe because its so simple. No expensive equipment really and the races makes you feel so welcome and like you are helping the world (by paying your fee for charity).

    The fees definitely stop me from registering for too many races. I think anything over $25 for a 5K is a little much unless its a charity that is dear to my heart. I wish they told you how much of it goes to charity though. As for marathons, at least they feed you the night before! The more I pay, the more I expect like a free pasta dinner, a nice expo, a decent tshirt (maybe even sweat wicking), and some sort of fancy metal at the end with loads of awesome free food. I did a cheaper half once and they didn’t have gatorade until mile 11 and they had packed up the food by the time I finished! I would have gladly paid more to have better supplies that day!!

    I have a 5K this weekend that I’m not really that excited about (since I had a bigger bike ride last weekend, the ACS Bike-a-thon). I wanted some sort of motivation to kick off my half marathon training though!

    Wow that was a long comment! I guess I am just excited to talk about running!
    ~Ang

  18. I think it is great that so many more people are running! Maybe our country is sliding back into a more healthy lifestyle??

    I race 3-6 “big races per year (halves and fulls) and I try to do as many of the local 5Ks that I can to help support different organizations – I really don’t think about the fees as long as that is the only expense for the race. (IE – I choose races closed to home so I don’t have to pay for hotels, meals, etc).

  19. I think many women have gotten into running bc it is easy. A good run/workout can be completed in under an hour (also I can run with Bernie (my furry son) and get his exercise at the same time). I think running is also a great way to meet people. I am a member of a relay team for Reach the Beach and our team has become really good friends. Of course, spending 28 hours in a van, getting no sleep and running at 3 AM is priceless with a group of people who share the same goal!

  20. I agree with what everyone else said about running being so popular. For me as a runner, I try to participate in road races every few months if I am doing a 5K, but the time between is longer if I am training for a bigger race like a half. The registration fee definitely can affect my participation. I love races, but if it gets over 150, I just can’t justify it. If I didn’t have student loans or credit cards to pay on it’d probably be easier to afford the big races. 🙂

  21. In my area, it seems that a lot of people have taken on running due to the Couch to 5K program. It’s a goal that I have and several for my friends have done it. One of my best friends started that way and just ran the Boston Marathon this year.

  22. I think running has become more popular because of the resurgence of top American runners. Ryan Hall running a 2:04 marathon….. WTF? Very Inspiring! Just thinking about it makes me want to run.

    I’ve only run in two races this year 🙁 Race fee’s are a definite factor in holding me out of more.

    Saving the pennies for my first Ultra in late September….. the Vermont 50! I know….. it’s crazy.

  23. Fees are a big factor in my decision to run a race. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of trail races (which aren’t popular…yet) and those are usually cheaper. I like to think of “cost per mile”

    Example:

    Marine Corps Marathon: 90 dollars

    JFK 50 Mile: 195 dollars (double the distance, double the price)

    This seems reasonable to me 🙂 However, I also think running 50 miles sounds like a good idea, so maybe don’t trust my logic.

  24. Running is personally popular with me because you don’t need anything really to just get up and go. When I first started working I definitely couldn’t afford a gym membership and it was SO nice to know that I could get my cardio in (even in the freezing Boston winter!) outdoors instead.

    I also love it because I come from a family of runners – my dad did track, my sisters did track as did I and I’ve just always kept up with it since (except for now cause I’m injured, hah)!

  25. I think running is popular because it doesn’t take any equipment to do it and you can do it anywhere. I also think that the invention of IPOD’s has helped….because people can now have easier ways to take their personalized music with them when running.

  26. I heard that article a few weeks ago. I was shocked at how fast the NYCM fee has increased!! I’m really hoping to run that next year but am so afraid of what it will cost in 2012.

    I totally understand prices going up. We live in a time where everything seems to be more expensive with each passing year. It makes complete sense. However, I definitely think that the price should reflect the distance you’re running. Why should a marathon be $100 and a half marathon be $85 for the same course? If you’re only running half the distance then shouldn’t you only have to pay half the price?

    I’m beginning to think that I’ll just signed up for the marathons if they’re only a couple bucks more expensive and then make the decision of which distance I run.

    These increasing prices are also forcing me to carefully pick which races are most important to me to run. I can’t afford to run every single one I’m interested in!

  27. I think it’s popular because when the economy goes down, running is free and always accessible. Gym membership costs go up but running is always there. I feel like races are becoming a but more frilly too, more goody bags, better food before/ after, and all the other things that come along with the races now. I race probably 2X/ year but after my marathon, I think it’ll all be 5ks for quite some time.

  28. I think running has become more popular because fitness in general has become more popular, and running is the easiest, cheapest way to get in exercise. All you need is shoes! No gym membership, no equipment.

  29. It annoys me that the prices have gone up so much — but I LOVE that it’s gotten more popular. The more people — the more fun!

    I think running and racing has gotten more popular because it’s a sport where any average Joe can participate and you ONLY compete against yourself.

    The running community is completely amazing and just adds to the addiction — I know that part of the reason I keep doing it!

  30. that’s a great question! I think marathongs (<– my favorite typo and I'm not fixing it!) are getting more popular for a lot of reasons. I think they're a popular "bucket list" item and there are a ton of charity incentives too. Plus, they are getting more publicity these days, which I think causes more people to think "OMG, why don't I run a marathon?!"

    But maybe more people are just realizing how awesome running is? Who knows. I could do without the high race fees, but I never regret paying them and always love my race experiences. Especially NYCM – I promise you it is worth every penny! 🙂

  31. I think people have become more comfortable with running and are learning to push their bodies more. I also think races are becoming more “entertaining” and commercial… it entices people. It’s the new “fun” thing to do.

  32. I think it’s so popular because it’s a familiar thing. People might not know about good running form or good shoes, but everyone “knows” how to run, so it’s a less scary form of exercise to start with. I’ve seen a ton of people set a 5k goal as a kickstart to their weight loss.

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  34. I think fitness in general has become more popular- there are more types of workout classes than ever. But running is great b/c it can done any time, any place and the costs can be low. Also everyone gets a medal at the end!

  35. I recently completed my first marathon, and following the race, I did a blog posting, calculating what it cost me to run a marathon, beyond the entry fee. Including physio appointments, new shoes, etc, the total cost went beyond $1,000. I was shocked. And then my husband almost puked.

  36. I think it’s popular b/c we see some people doing it all the time as we drive up the streets, and many times wonder how fun/helpful it would be for our health. Also, I think if we let it be, and just do it for the fun of it, then it can be the “cheapest” sport around! It doesn’t have to require a lot of fancy stuff in my opinion. That’s only if we want it to be 🙂

  37. I read this article a couple of weeks ago and was fascinated by it also! I think running has become popular for a lot of different reasons, I think it’s difficult to pin down just one.
    Personally, I got into it because of my mom and brother, and I love that the community has grown so much and allowed me to make new friends. Race fees are rising, but so is everything else. Compared to other fitness activities (yoga, biking, pilates classes, personal training, tennis, golf) running is still relatively inexpensive. I look at race fees as entertainment, and the most I usually do is about 1 per month, so I don’t get too worried about it. Besides, I think if I did a race every weekend, it would take away from the excitement and fun.
    I don’t really understand why some people get so annoyed that running is so “popular” now. The best part about races is seeing the runners of ALL different levels, from elites to newbie runners just wanting to finish, in the same place doing the same thing.

  38. I think its popular because its almost like a right of passage. Running and marathons (haven’t run one….yet!) are a way to measure active success. It’s something that you have to work towards and the marathon is the medal at the end of the road. Its a symbol of being healthy and active!

  39. I started running because I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when I cross the finish line at a race. Also, you can choose to run for fun or feed your competitive nature by participating in races. I think running has gained popularity because it is easy to do anywhere, it is economical, and maybe because the running/fitness bloggers out there have convinced us that it is fun and makes you fit!
    I like to run in races, because it gives a goal to train for and keeps me motivated. Local 5K and 10K races are pretty inexspensive but some race fees are pretty steep. I will spend at almost $300 on three half marathon entry fees this fall. I just see it as the price I pay to stay in shape.

  40. I think women these days are more likely to push themselves physically than they were 10 years ago. I run on the same trail every day and I see tons of women my age (early 30’s, even more in their 20s), but very few women over the age of 40. The reason the sport has become seemingly more popular, is because women are not as scared to be athletic and continue to exercise after high school/college.

    I personally don’t sign up for a lot of races for several reasons: 1. the race fees are too expensive for me….it’s hard for me to justify paying $100 for sometimes I can do for free every day, 2. I refuse to travel more than 100 miles for a race (again, this would be costly – paying for travel, hotel, meals, etc.), and 3. I kind of hate the anxiety that comes with racing, although I always end up enjoying them in the end.

  41. I picked up that same issue a few days ago and that article really surprised me. I never stopped to think about how much work putting on a race event was!

    I’m not sure why running is getting so popular but I’m glad it is! Anything that helps people get active is good with me :]

  42. My boyfriend’s cousin is running the Rock ‘N’ Roll in VA Beach and asked us to run it with him! I was all about it but I totally flipped when we went to register! $110 a person!? We are going to do it, but it was very hard for me to make that payment! I think that price is just insane!

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