Not sure how much interest this will generate. I'm only posting because I'm curious if anyone has noticed similar things this year.
Seems to me the recent running fad is rapidly coming to a close. Of course, this isn't a scientific experiment. Just in this area the leader board of local 5K races for this year has dramatically been weakened. Having been injured and completely sidelined for 4 months and 25 pounds worth, I'm bummed that I couldn't capitalize on it, but I'm getting back to form now. I've just been watching from afar, and the times are way down. No doubt about it. Haven't really done a comparison of number of runners for any given race year over year.
I still consider the late 1970s early 80s period the great running period for this country. Of course, folks like Ryan Hall have set the high water mark higher, but for overall national performance, I don't see we as a nation are as fast as we used to be. Barefoot or not.
Interest on this board seems to be down substantially as well, though I've watched that ebb and flow over the years.
Of course, then I saw folks associating recent running interest over the past few years with the economy gone south, and some people filling that void with running. Maybe it means some people are getting back to work, and that would be good.
I have noticed the participation in certain events has changed, and sadly, even some established races intended to be annual events have not continued or have not been well attended. Regionally, it seems that 5k events do well only in connection with a larger festival or special venue and fewer runners are signing up for longer distances.
As you stated, the economy and associated obligations probably have an impact. I also have a theory that some of the masters level runners have become more selective about competitions for a variety of reasons. (the die hards transition into coaching/timing companies or other activities due to the demands of age and long-term injuries). The younger generation, well, many stories there, but I agree that the trend for a commitment to running does not seem to be catching on for many. I have seen finishing times consistently better among runners in their 40's and 50's as compared to those in their 20's and 30's, for example, so those older runners out there are still doing a great job. It would seem the focus has shifted to preparing for a particular event and finishing as opposed to a goal for continuing to adapt or improve for another challenge. (Who knows, maybe the color run and mud races are the new fad?)
I have looked at comparisons for runners given specific races in yearly competitions, and overall finishing times have either remained steady or declined (in general, but the shocking information usually comes in looking at the age categories).
Great topic and glad you offered the conversation.
Interesting observations, J. Yes, I must largely concur. I've only been back at this for 4 years now, and over that time I've been shocked at the level of competitiveness of those runners in the range of 40-55 age grouping. I must admit I don't pay a whole lot of attention to timings for those above that age range, because anyone running at 60 is just amazing regardless of time.
For sure the 40 and above crowd put the 40 and below crowd to shame around here, relatively speaking anyway.
Interesting you mention about specific events, since as I typed first, I was just off the tour de lance local event which of course didn't fit the mold of what I was describing.
My observation for a downtick of the recent trend lower is in particula a "this year" thing. This year 2012 just seems to be so much less of a running year in these parts than the past 3 years I've been racing.
Thanks for sharing and keep on runnin. Ain't nearly as much fun for me without some good competition!
This is interested as I've noticed the complete opposite, especially here in Atlanta. We already have a very large running community, but it seems to have grown tremendously in the last year. Locally, a lot of races I've participated in the past have sold out this year, whcih was never the case before. A few even instituted corral starts to accommodate the larger number of participants.
On a national level, we saw both Chicago and the MCM sell out in record time this year. Makes me wonder if the decrease in numbers you're seeing/hearing of are just in the shorter distance races--which again, I haven't seen here in Atlanta--or more geographical.
I haven't seen any signs of running interest waning. I see more people on the roads running than ever and there seems to be an ever increasing amount of races. I think there are just so many races that some just end up losing out to others. Between more competition and the economy, I do think that race organizers need to be careful with what they charge for races. If I want to race a 5k and it is $20 or less, I usually am in. I start to hesitate around $25 and probably won't race for $30 or more. I know many people who limit the number of races they do mainly because of cost.
As for interest in this board, I have personally been involved more in running blogs, both my own and others, than this board recently. Part of the reason is the poor performance (loading times, etc) of the board itself. It has always been an issue and hasn't gotten better in the couple years I've been visiting the site.
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Nice to get other's viewpoints and impressions I was prompted to do a little more research, unscientific for sure, and certainly only a small pocket of the country, and I'm sure too small a sample size to be meaningful. But, I have a feeling my observations aren't completely nuts based on this area. So, I summed up total finisher participation in 8 randomly selected local races over the past 4 years. Results definitely show less participation in 2012:
I found your posts very interesting as well. I live in Vermont and really the big thing here is the Key Bank Marathon held in Burlington every May. Yes there are smaller races 5ks,10ks, HMs pretty much throughout the year. The Key Bank really gets alot of notice because of advertising. Now in the central to southern part of Vt from Proctor to Rutland is the Crowley Brothers Memorial 10k Race. It used to be really popular back in the late 70's and 80's and signups started to dwindle a little so now there is a 5k and a HM. By the way the race is in memory of my great uncle Frank Crowley and my grandfather and another great uncle.
Life is too short not to waddle......
Crowley Brothers Memorial 10k Road Race 6/10/12
Finish time- 1:38:23
Colchester Triathlon 7/29/12 (Kayak 2mi, Bike 12mi, Run 3.1mi)
Finish time- 2hrs 38min 04sec (Will never do the kayak part again!)
Crowley Brothers Memorial 10k Road Race 06/12/2011 Finish time:10k event 1 hour 39 minutes 40 seconds
Colchester Triathlon 07/31/2011 2hr 24 min (not my best ever! but I finished)
Started C25K 12/15/10
Is it possible that your documented lower turnouts are the result of more races being run, and the pie getting cut thinner? In the Boulder-Denver area, my gut is that there are many more races than even 2 years ago.
As far as the leaderboard getting thin, I wish! My age group (40-50) is very deep in talent, as has been mentioned earlier.
Possible, and considered as much, and my unscientific survey for this area was consistent with my observation. Most races in this area are tracked by a local site dedicated to local races.
2011 - Races in June/July : 29
2012 - Races in June/July : 23
I don't think it has slow here. Numbers may be down at some races because frankly we have to many races in our area. Every week-end at least one, sometimes two 5K-10K's and a sprint or International Tri very close.
Here in Los Angeles, in local 5K's and 10K's, I haven't noticed any significant differences in the finishing times of the top runners over the years. What I have noticed is:
(a) Many races have grown significantly in size - by factors of two, three and more over just the past few years. Most of this growth appears to be at the slower end of the curve - slow joggers and walkers. It's great that so many people are participating, although it also means that average finishing times are slower. When I started racing in 1986, an 8-9 minute mile would typically just get into the top third of the pack. Now an 8 minute mile is often in the top 10-15% of the pack.
(b) Many races have really stepped up their marketing, especially via e-mail. For example, I often now get promotional e-mails for races a year (really!) in advance and then monthly, or even more often, till race day. Hence more people are entering races, in many cases for the "experience" and the event spirit.
(c) There are more races overall - pretty much every weekend (except for some dry spells in the summer and around Christmas/New Years) and often many choices on a given weekend.
As for posting frequency...personally, I don't post as often as I'd like. Sheer lack of time. I work 45-50 hr/week and own a house. Enough said (LOL). Not to mention that it often takes up to a minute for a post to load on these boards, and I don't have time to wait around.
@ 5K: New Balance Palm Springs 5K, Palm Springs, CA, 24:32
Angels Baseball Foundation 5K, Anaheim, CA, 24:24
Pride of the Valley, Baldwin Park, CA, 24:28
@ 10K: LA Chinatown Firecracker 10K, Los Angeles, CA, 52:15
Great Race of Agoura - Old Agoura 10K, Agoura Hills, CA, 51:40
Fiesta Days Run, La Canada, CA, 49:57
The things I notice are:
- Races selling out that never used to, and selling out faster. The Marine Corps Marathon sold out in less than 3 hours this year (setting a new record for a U.S. marathon). Philadelphia's Broad Street 10-Miler sold out in less than 5 hours. For a long time the Philly Marathon didn't sell out, but it has the last few years. Heck, The Goofy at Walt Disney World (half-marathon Saturday, full marathon Sunday) routinely sells out. Not quickly, but every year it sells out.
- Everbody and his uncle has a 5K, raising fund for their cause. I probably have a choice of a dozen or more every weekend.
- Higher participation in many races, with caps for many. When I ran Broad Street in 2008, there were about 12,000 participants and no cap. I ran other races for a couple years, then in 2011 it sold out before I could get in (a couple days?). I registered in 2012 (through my USATF membership), and the race was capped at 40,000 runners. It sold out in less than 5 hours. So from 12,000 to 40,000 in 4 years, and a fast sellout.
- I have to agree that there are a lot of slower runners participating. I see a lot of people talking about getting under 3 hours for a half-marathon (more power to you). When I ran my first half, 3 hours would have been dead last. The Philly RnR Half (formerly the Philadelphia Distance Run) has posted a 5 hour time limit on the course! Don't get me wrong, I'm glad these people are participating. They're doing something, as opposed to sitting on the couch.
All encouraging replies - so yes, hopefully this is fairly isolated to this area. It's not a major metro. Yes, does seem to be the larger venues are doing quite well. I'm with you on more participation the better for all concerned. Charities, race fees, better post race eats due to increased sponsor interest, and better for everyone to get off the couch. I enjoy seeing vast numbers of all abilities-of course people who don't understand how to line up based on ability are a bit annoying, but such is life. All in all, just seems to be a slower on the speedier end this year and lower turnouts around here. Hopefully just a blip.