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. I love running, but think it’s super expensive to run races (and get new shoes!). In theory, you just put on some shoes and get out the door – but paying for races, traveling to races and buying food to keep ya going really adds up! $$$

  2. I think running is so popular because there’s more coverage of it nowadays. Running-specific magazines, programs, etc. didn’t exist when my parents first started running, 40-something years ago. They were in the minority – people often looked at them like they were crazy when they said they’d taken a run that morning – and sort of felt like they belonged to an elite circle.

    I like that running is more democratic now. (I’m not really a fan of the elitist mentality in any sport, unless you actually *are* an elite athlete. Then, I think, you’ve earned it!). I like that I have a lot of friends, family members, etc. who share my love and excitement for running, and that I can read stories from other runners and learn about running-related issues in magazines.

    That being said, it sometimes concerns me when people I know who have literally not run a day in their lives suddenly decide they’re training for a marathon. Because, you know, everyone is doing it. While I appreciate the fact that running has become such a prevalent pastime, I think that some people don’t fully comprehend that it is a hard sport, and that it takes (just like anything else) time, effort, discipline, and patience to become proficient – however you define it. I’ve seen so many people go full-force when they weren’t quite ready to go full-force, and then get injured/burnt out and become instantly demoralized. Everyone becomes ‘proficient’ at her own pace…and I think it’s good (and necessary) to start slow, and start small.

  3. I don’t know exactly why it’s become so popular, but I do know that if I see someone out running, it motivates me to go for a run too. I am not too big into running, I probably do a couple short races a year. I do it more for the social aspect – a fun, healthy activity to do with friends.

  4. I love running! I’ve been running a comfortable two miles a day forever but recently started getting serious about training for longer runs! My Sister and I are registered for the B.A.A Half Marathon and it cost $65!! I mean, I am super pysched… and I see running as a fun hobby that keeps me fit and healthy and I suppose many people spend waaayyy more money on more expensive hobbies so that is how I have justified it haha. I cannot see myself spending much more unless I was SUPER serious about it… like if running was my life. Then, I’m sure I would think differently and the price really wouldn’t bother me as much.

  5. The price (and just fear in general, haha) is what kept me away from races. But this fall I decided to test the waters in the race department… we’ll see how it goes. I’m actually terrified that I will really enjoy it because I don’t have the income to support a habit like this!!

  6. I think it’s become popular because a lot of people equate running with losing weight. But I really don’t even think that that theory is true. I mean, of course running can help you lose weight… but so can other forms of exercise. And on the flip side, you can run and NOT lose weight. It’s that whole “calories in, calories out” thing. But I think some people assume that running will automatically make them lose weight. And then sadly, many end up getting injured because they don’t know how to run safely.

    Just my opinion. I do love running…I just started a few months ago. But to run injury-free, it takes more than just throwing on a pair of sneakers and heading out the door.

  7. Personally, I think running is so popular because it’s an easy sport to get into. No, i do not mean it’s EASY by any means (it’s sooooooooo definitely not, esp when you’re beginning!), but you can do it anywhere, anytime, and all you really need are your running shoes. That’s what I love about it- freedom.

  8. I read somewhere that running always gets more popular when the economy is bad – people quit their gyms to save money, so they start running instead. It can be super expensive to race and travel (I also read that RW article, and they made some really interesting points), but just lacing up your shoes and heading outside is definitely one of the cheapest forms of exercise you can find!

  9. I think running has gotten so popular because of the economy. It’s free to hit the pavement.
    As for prices, they haven’t hindered me too much. Here in Michigan, the races aren’t too terrible. Most 5k’s are 20.00, I’m doing a 10 miler that was 33.00 and I’m doing a half which was 45.00. Not too bad yet.

  10. I was never sure if running has become more popular or feels that way because I only started running two years ago in races with every other runner in town. I know these races have been going on for years so I always assumed it was because I recently became a runner that the activity is more popular. Paying for races definitely hinders how many I run in. I read the same magazine a couple days ago and they break down the costs of every race. It is understandable how much they charge but I wish I had the money to participate more. Recently I didn’t run in the Celebration 5K which was right by my house because it didn’t fit into the weekend budget. Muh!

  11. I think that running has become more popular because people are realizing two things: 1) it’s a relatively cheap sport. Sure, race fees and gear costs can add up quickly, but when compared with more expensive activities like golf, it’s not all that bad. All you really need to get into it is a good pair of shoes; and 2) that they CAN do this, so they DO. Long-distance races, IMO, provide such a feeling of accomplishment that is unmatched by other hobbies/sports, etc… C’mon, running a full 26.2? Undeniably amazing.

  12. This sounds weird but I think that obesity and cancer are causing more people to do races. There are SO many people who are overweight and to try to lose weight they put a half-marathon on their bucket list and suffer through it. Most of these people won’t ever even do another race. Also so many people are running with cancer charities, usually not serious runners, but they walk/jog half and full marathons with their groups (ie TIT). The average finishing time of races is getting slower while the number of runners increases because most of them are older, overweight, or beginners. I don’t think that there is any increase in serious, faster runners who would be racing anyway.

  13. I haven’t run that many official races (two 5ks and one half marathon), and I guess part of that is due to the entrance fee.

    I work with someone who runs competitively, and she’ll only run races that she knows she has a chance of placing in—she figures that it’s worth it if she can make back the money she paid to enter the race. I guess that’s a good strategy, except there’s no WAY I’m going to place and make up my race fee.

    As for why running has become so popular, I really have no clue. Maybe because it gets more press? Or because it’s so easy to just get out and run? (No fancy equipment or gym membership necessary?)

  14. Ummm…I want to know where you got that fabulous pink water bottle I keep seeing in your pics!! I covet!! : )

  15. I love the freedom of running, and I have definitely seen an increase in price. I ran my first half marathon 3 years ago for $30 dollars. This summer I am signed up for the Warrior Dash which is only three miles with obstacles included and it put me back $50! I understand the equipment and entertainment are provided and are included in the fee, but a half marathon has much more fuel stops.

    Why do I think prices have gone up? It’s economics, when demand go up, prices go up. More people are running these days…

  16. I like to run because it’s a sport that involves just me, myself and I. I’m fairly uncoordinated and very self conscious when I play team sports, so I like that I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself.

    Race fees haven’t stopped me yet, but I do cringe when I pay for some of them. The Rock N Roll ones are so darn expensive, but I ran the AZ one in January and will be running Vegas in December (half, not full). I like their medals! LOL

  17. I think the prices are so expensive! I don’t participate in very many. From November-March I did 4 races (5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, 10k). I really only signed up for these races because my friend wanted someone to run with. I’m not a huge race person mostly b/c of cost, and I just don’t perform well in the mornings. I’m a morning person, and am usually awake. I just can’t get enough calories in me without feeling sick.

  18. I have found that a great way to deal with the sticker shock of running races is to start doing triathlons as well:) I thought marathon entry fees were rough until I started paying for triathlons; now I actually appreciate running race fees a bit in comparison!

  19. Just wondering, and this may be a stupid question, but if there are so many more runners, why do the fees keep INcreasing? Wouldn’t they be able to decrease the fees with more participants? Is it about liability and insurance, or is it strictly business (i.e. more people are interested so we can charge more)?

  20. Running is a pretty inexpensive sport, if you don’t let things get out of hand. All you really need is a good pair of running shoes. It’s the gadgets and the cool clothes that cost bucks! Races are pricey, too. I try not to travel for races, and that keeps the fees down. I don’t mind paying the fee. The premiums are way nicer than they used to be (no more bulky t-shirts) and there is usually food and water along the course and at the end. It’s always a fun experience.

  21. Easy Answer is Yes! I am finding running is getting expensive and it’s a cheap sport. The cost of races is crazy. I go through a couple pairs of running shoes a year and this doesn’t leave me much extra money to enter race. I have to for more local races which involve less travel and there fore less expense… but I love to race.. so I try to race at least once a in the fall and once in the winter….

  22. I have run my first races this year (Mini in NYC and Seattle Rock n Roll Half- both last month) and I know that I am lucky that I am in a financial position to be able to pay for my races and travel for them! I just signed up for two more half marathons just yesterday (Philly Rock n’ Roll and Healdsburg Half in CA Wine Country)! I do my races to travel some in the US and because I don’t like running in NYC most of the time, so it works out OK for me. But both of those race registration fees were over $100. Which I think is a bit excessive, especially when Rock n Roll has usually upwards of 20,000 racers per race, they are making bank off this don’t kid yourself. But I have to say since starting to run races, what I am peeved by the most are the photographers for the Rock n Roll series. I am sorry but $40 for a digital file of ONE photo or $20 for a print??? That is extortion right there!!

  23. I think running’s popular because its accessible. Its customizable. Do it on your own or with friends. Make friends by running with new people. Step out your front door and go or execute an organized workout at a track or on the treadmill. Its primal, its challenging and its rewarding in that it provides an impetus to find new limits within our selves and to learn about our capacity to endure. I could wax philosophic about running till the cows come (or, run) home but basically I think its popular because its fun 🙂

  24. First of all, your comment about runnin’ through almond butter quickly made me laugh as I also note the embarrassing frequency with which I get to enjoy OIAJ – because I devour nut butter like nobody’s business!

    I think running has become popular for several reasons: 1. the blogging world, which has exploded and is filled with runners making it seem more accessible 2. while races are expensive, training is free! gyms are not, and memberships might be out of reach for people hit particularly hard by the recession 3. just one more thing for type-A people to get OCD about, especially if they can have fun with tools like Garmins, mapmyrun.com, etc. to monitor their exact pacing & distance!

  25. I plan on participating in my first road race later this year. And while I had originally planned to sign up for shorter ones leading up to it (during training) I opted not to because of price.

    But that may speak more to my being frugal (and saving for a wedding/honeymoon) than high entry prices.

  26. I think running is so popular because it’s open to anyone, requires little/no equipment and is efficient at producing quick results. Plus it gives you a high that no other sport can, in my ‘humble’ opinion!

  27. I whipped up some OOIAJ last night too! It was so delicious and welcomed this morning!!

    I saw that issue too…I really think that running has become more popular, because awareness for the sport has grown (think social media, blogging, magazines, televised races), as well as heightened health awareness – which claims running as one of the highest calorie burning and heart healthy activities…plus the running culture is a little addictive and too shabby 🙂

    I actually don’t race as much as I want, and fees are a large part of that!

  28. I think running has become so popular because the running community is amazing. We are all so friendly and supportive. It’s a great activity to do with a group of people as well as alone. Nothing can beat the runner’s high either. I participate in a couple road races a year. I’m not a huge 5k person, but I’ll run some of them. My favorite race is the half marathon… it takes the cake over the marathon for me. The price of races sometimes hinders me because I feel like I can run those distances without having to pay lots of money, but I always love a good race!

  29. I think running has become so popular because the running community is amazing. We are all so friendly and supportive. It’s a great activity to do with a group of people as well as alone. Nothing can beat the runner’s high either. I participate in a couple road races a year. I’m not a huge 5k person, but I’ll run some of them. My favorite race is the half marathon… it takes the cake over the marathon for me. The price of races sometimes hinders me because I feel like I can run those distances without having to pay lots of money, but I always love a good race and will pay for those.

  30. I love running races and wish I could run one every month! (I used to run them about that often… but then the expense started adding up.) 🙂 Now I only register for races that I really want to run… either because it’s a great course, I’ll be running with friends, I love the shirt… etc. 🙂 That’s making the expense much more manageable. But it is hard! I really want to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll in Las Vegas but the price has kept me from registering!

  31. Very interesting topic!
    I’ve volunteered for a local marathon for three years now, which has been in existence for 30 years. It’s been especially interesting seeing how the marathon has adapted to change, how each year the field of runners has grown by a small amount, and how the race always sells out. We’re in a position now where we feel the interest from our running community, and almost a competitive need to stay relevant with modern road racing, to add a half marathon to our event.
    I think that running is so popular because it’s inspiring – it’s easy to start, but to run a race takes dedication and training, and also forces you to be very present with your body. Once you complete a race, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Everyone wants to feel that for themselves.

  32. I think running is so popular because it’s easily accessible, you dont need a gym membership, you can “self-schedule”, and go at your own pace! Race fees SHOULD hinder my participation (I just dropped $130 for the Disney Princess Half-Marathon) but I can’t help it – they’re so fun!

  33. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and cardio, especially running, was out of the question. I’ve finally gotten it under control so now I’m working on being able to run; I’m almost done with my 10-week program to run 30-minutes straight (slightly extended due to a conference trip and my inability to run). Next up: competing in a 5k!

  34. I love running and I think people are just realizing how fun it is! I don’t mind paying for larger races, they provide so many amenties and I always feel safe on the courses. That’s worth the money. As for local 5ks and 10ks being more expensive, I don’t mind because they are usually running the race to raise money for a local charity.

  35. I feel like running has become more popular because it gets so much more hype now. It’s free and I feel like so many people are talking about it and how it’s ‘easy’ to become a runner (through Couch to 5K Programs) and so on. The more people talk about it, the more popular it becomes. Everyone wants to be part of the club 🙂

  36. Fees definitely hinder my participation in road races. They really start to add up. I usually do 1-2 full marathons a year, and several half-marathons, but there aren’t as many races to choose from here in TX as there were when I lived in Utah. So my race participation has gone way down. Now it will probably be 1-2 half marathons a year, and possibly a full. It is crazy how much running has grown in popularity just over the past few years!

  37. I am not a runner, my knees won’t let me but I am an avid walker and hiker! I think running has become popular because it’s something people can do most anywhere they live or in a gym on a treadmill. It’s low cost and great for those who want to go solo or with a friend.

  38. I think running is so popular by the sheer simplicity of it. You don’t need any fancy equipment and anyone can do it. I don’t really do races. I go through phases with running too, right now I am running less, but that might change 🙂

  39. I totally agree with what Tracey said above me – running is one of the simplest and cheapest forms of exercise there is! Not to mention that once you start it, it becomes addicting. I wouldn’t want to stop running now that I’ve started because I love the feeling of setting and beating my running goals. 😀

  40. I think all the healthy living/running/fitness blogs (like yours) have probably helped popularize running too! I only do a couple of races a year (so far)….I like to run, but only to a certain point.

  41. I committed to a “one race a month for a year” challenge in October 2010, and it’s really added up ($$)! I think after my year is over, I’m going to save and only enter races I REALLY want to run. I would participate in all the races I could if the fees were lower (or non-existent!). I understand the need for the high prices though, these things cannot be cheap to put together!

  42. I used to be a serious runner but that stopped in my late twenties. Too many knee problems…now at 44 I wish I had run a few less miles. Take it easy on those knees, ladies, do other forms of exercise to mix it up. Sorry, don’t mean to be a spoilsport, I loved it once, too, but I think the orthopedic doc’s will keep busy in the future….. 😉

  43. I agree with the people who said that the economy might be partially responsible for the popularity of running. As others have mentioned, it’s a fairly simple, inexpensive sport, since all you need is some sneakers and the road. However, I also think it has to do with the amount of control you have when you run. You don’t have to rely on equipment, a certain location being available (like a pool), or other people. In a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty, and you can lose your job, your home, or your health due to factors that are largely outside your control, running offers that sense of self-efficacy and achievement that we’re all looking for. Plus, with the national push to get healthy and the growing running and racing community, there’s a lot of support and encouragement for beginning runners.

  44. Running is popular because of the solid calorie burn and the endorphins afterwards. Races do get pricey, especially at the longer distances. I think the most I’ve paid is around $80 to run in the San Francisco Half Marathon. The Rock N Roll races always look fun, but they are ridiculously expensive even if you’re an early bird registerer.

  45. I think running is so popular because personal health has become much more popular over the past few years. Running is a great alternative to going to the gym, which not only costs money to join, but costs time to travel to and from. Running is free and can be done anywhere any time.

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