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Running USA Annual Half-Marathon Report

Half Marathon Mania

Half Marathon Mania

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.  (April, 2011) – If marathon mania exists, then, the half-marathon has reached hyper-mania. Last year, according to Running USA, U.S. half-marathons continued their upward trajectory as the “leader of the pack” repeated its phenomenal 24% growth rate, from approximately 1.1 million finishers in 2009 to nearly 1.4 million finishers in 2010, a record annual increase for the distance. In the same 733 U.S. half-marathons for 2009 vs. 2010, there was a 17.24% finisher increase (975,409 vs. 1,143,551).Since 2003, the half-marathon has been the fastest growing road race distance in the United States, and for five consecutive years (2006–10), the number of 13.1 mile finishers in the U.S. has grown by 10% or more each year. Moreover, since 2000, the number of half-marathon finishers in this country has nearly tripled (482,000 to 1,385,000). In short, no other race distance comes close to this type of growth in recent years.

Other half-marathon “boom” facts include:

  • In 2010, there were a record total of 25 U.S. half-marathons with 10,000 or more finishers, compared with 2009 when there were 17 (previous record), and in 2001, there were only two.
  • In 2010, there were 38 half-marathons with 8,000 or more finishers vs. 30 in 2009 and 21 in 2008.
  • Last year, to make the Top 100 largest U.S. half-marathon list, an event needed at least 3,200 finishers. By comparison, in 2001, it took less than 1,000 to crack the Top 100 list. So this explosive growth reaches beyond just the large or destination half-marathons.
  • And over the past 5 years, more than 30 debut half-marathons annually have been popping up across the country.
  • Running USA also reports that there were 42 half-marathons that make up the Top 100 U.S. Timed list for 2010. This means that of the largest timed road race events in the United States, 42% of them were half-marathons. Moreover, four of these half-marathons were inaugural events in 2010. Five years ago, there were 26 half-marathons on the Top 100 U.S. Timed list and ten years ago, 13 half-marathons on said barometer list.

As reported in last year’s inaugural Running USA Half-Marathon Report, the popularity of the distance has been fueled mainly by charity and non-charity training programs, destination-type events/series, runners moving up or down from the marathon and women’s participation.

Women lead the charge

Last year in the U.S., women dominated the half-marathon with an astounding 59% of fields or approximately 820,000 female finishers overall. In 2004, females were a slight minority with 49% participation, but each year more and more females have tackled the 13.1 mile distance and now populate this race distance more than any other event. Since 1995, the number of female finishers in the half-marathon has increased six-fold (135,000 females in 1995 to 820,000 in 2010) and 7 of the top 15 “women-only” events in the nation are half-marathons.

Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea, co-authors of “Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving – and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity” (2010) attribute the female interest in the half-marathon to a number of factors: 1) The training schedule fits nicely into a working woman/busy mom’s life by allowing her to achieve a significant goal without devoting an entire weekend to running or recovering from a long run; 2) The miles and training necessary to finish a half-marathon give a woman an adequate amount of ‘me-time’ (or girlfriend time) which is necessary for both physical and mental health; 3) The pride and satisfaction that comes with crossing the finish line of a long race that requires both focus and commitment; 4) Since many half-marathons are destination events, they are a great way to get in a race, then hang out (and get massages and drink wine) with girlfriends for the rest of the weekend and 5) Lastly, it contains the most coveted word in a runner’s vocabulary: “marathon”.

Table 1: Gender & Age Group Breakdown 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Women 49% 49% 53% 53% 55% 56% 57% 59%
Men 51% 51% 47% 47% 45% 44% 43% 41%
Masters (40 yrs+) 40% 42% 41% 39% 36%
Open (20 to 39 yrs) 58% 55% 56% 58% 61%
Juniors (under 20) 2% 3% 3% 3% 3%
2010 Age Distribution Female Male
6-17 yrs 1% 2%
18-24 yrs 11% 7%
25-34 yrs 36% 28%
35-44 yrs 30% 31%
45-54 yrs 16% 21%
55-64 yrs 5% 9%
65+ yrs 1% 2%
Average Age 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Males 38.9 39.7 39.2 39.5 39.3 39.2 38.9 38.7
Females 34.9 35.8 36.0 35.9 36.3 36.1 35.8 35.7
Median Times for U.S. Half-Marathon Finishers 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Males 1:57:45 1:58:10 1:58:35 1:58:07 1:59:55 2:00:33 2:00:21 2:00:30
Females 2:16:14 2:16:12 2:17:09 2:16:33 2:19:12 2:19:02 2:19:47 2:19:12

Year Estimated U.S. Half-Marathon Finisher Total

1990 303,000
1995 420,000
2000 482,000
2004 612,000
2005 658,000
2006 724,000
2007 796,000
2008 900,000
2009 1,113,000
2010 1,385,000 (record high)

Rock ‘n’ Roll Series headlines half hype

The Competitor Group’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Series continues to attract more and more race participants each year, thus adding to the surge in U.S. half-marathon participants shown above. New courses are being added each year with fun, destination-style events promising live entertainment, scenic courses and post-race concerts. Seven of the top 10 U.S. half-marathons – plus three inaugural 1/2s in 2010 with more than 9,200 finishers each – are part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series, and overall, in 2010, the 14 Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathons represented just over 15% of all U.S. half-marathon finishers.

National Runner Survey – Half-Marathon #1

In 2009, Running USA surveyed more than 11,000 “core runners” nationwide and found that 73% of them were interested in entering a half-marathon in 2010 and they ranked the half-marathon as their favorite race distance, by a long shot (35% vs. 19% for the 5K). In addition, those runners who had participated in the half-marathon in the last two years ran approximately 4 days per week and trained over 27 miles per week. They also purchased approximately 3 pairs of running shoes each year.

State-by-State Breakdown – Who’s #1?

Which states saw the most half-marathoners cross the finish line last year? California reported approximately 225,000 half-marathon finishers for 2010 representing 16% of the half-marathon finishers nationwide, followed by Florida (7%), Texas (7%), New York (5%), Illinois (4%), Indiana (4%), Ohio (4%), Pennsylvania (3%), Tennessee (3%), Virginia (3%) and Washington (3%). All other states combined represent 41% of half-marathon finishers.

Table 2: 2010 U.S. Half-Marathons (>2,000 finishers) with the…

…Fastest Median Times 2010
New Bedford 1:52:29
NYRR: Manhattan 1:54:52
NYRR: Staten Island 1:56:50
Grete’s Great Gallop 1:57:48
Dexter Ann Arbor 1:57:57
…Slowest Median Times 2010
Nike Women’s 2:40:20
Disney Princess 2:38:49
National Breast Cancer – 26.2 with Donna 2:36:20
Disney Wine & Dine 2:36:15
Women’s Running Magazine – Nashville 2:35:50
…Most <2 Hour Finishers 2010
OneAmerica 500 Festival 8,816 (28%)
NYC 5,998 (52%)
P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 4,827 (22%)
Chicago 4,370 (32%)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago 4,085 (22%)
…Most >3 Hour Finishers 2010
OneAmerica 500 Festival 7,091 (23%)
Nike Women’s 4,889 (32%)
Walt Disney World 4,637 (27%)
P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 4,381 (20%)
Country Music 4,334 (18%)
…Most Finishers in Certain Age Groups Event 2010 Subtotals
Female Juniors Garry Bjorklund 1,880
Male Juniors LA County Holiday Half 1,369
Females 20-29 Country Music 5,257
Males 20-29 Country Music 2,080
Females 30-39 Country Music 5,010
Males 30-39 OneAmerica 500 Festival 4,349
Females 40-49 OneAmerica 500 Festival 3,617
Males 40-49 OneAmerica 500 Festival 3,654
Females 50-59 OneAmerica 500 Festival 1,981
Males 50-59 OneAmerica 500 Festival 2,302
Females 60+ OneAmerica 500 Festival 557
Males 60+ OneAmerica 500 Festival 883
…Highest Percent Women 2010
More/Fitness Magazine 99%
Diva’s at Long Island 99%
See Jane Run 98%
Women’s Running Magazine – Tempe 98%
Women’s Running Magazine – Nashville 98%
…Highest Percent Men 2010
NYRR: Queens 61%
NYRR: Manhattan 61%
NYRR: Bronx 58%
NYRR: Staten Island 58%
New Bedford 57%
…Highest Percent Masters (40+ yrs) 2010
Portland 63%
Brooksie Way 55%
National Breast Cancer – 26.2 with Donna 55%
Fort Lauderdale 54%
The Palm Beaches 53%

Bupa Great North Run regains #1 spot; record 9 half-marathons with >19,000 finishers

In 2010, the Bupa Great North Run reestablished itself as the largest half-marathon in the world with 39,507 finishers vs. last year’s leader Göteborg who dropped to #2 with 38,459 finishers. Over the past decade, the Great North Run has held the #1 position 9 out of 10 years.

For the first time, there were nine half-marathons worldwide with more than 19,000 finishers and a record-tying seven with more than 20,000 finishers (also 2009). Last year, the United States had 14 of the top 20 half-marathons in the world.

2010 

World’s Largest Half-Marathons (finishers):

1) Bupa Great North Run, GBR 39,507
2) Göteborg, SWE 38,459
3) OneAmerica 500 Festival, IN 31,046
4) Country Music, TN 23,799
5) Paris, FRA 22,032
6) P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona, AZ 21,567
7) Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio, TX 20,436
8) Vattenfall Berliner, GER 19,668
9) Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, NV 19,217
10) Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, IL 18,932
11) Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, WA 17,609
12) Walt Disney World, FL 17,132
13) Nike Women’s, CA 15,556
14) ING Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia, PA 15,456
15) Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach, VA 14,804
16) Chicago, IL 13,575
17) Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, CA (inaugural) 13,574
18) Medellin Int’l, COL 12,500 E
19) Disneyland, CA 12,372
20) Reading, GBR 12,300
E = estimated total; complete results unavailable

U.S. Largest Half-Marathons (finishers): 

1) OneAmerica 500 Festival, IN 31,046
2) Country Music, TN 23,799
3) P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 21,567
4) Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio, TX 20,436
5) Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, NV 19,217
6) Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, IL 18,932
7) Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, WA 17,609
8) Walt Disney World, FL 17,132
9) Nike Women’s, CA 15,556
10) ING Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia, PA 15,456
11) Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach, VA 14,804
12) Chicago, IL 13,575
13) Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, CA (inaugural) 13,574
14) Disneyland, CA 12,372
15) San Francisco, CA 11,896
16) Surf City USA, CA 11,804
17) NYC Half Marathon, NY 11,604
18) Disney Princess, FL 11,359
19) ING Miami, FL 11,302
20) Kentucky Derby Festival, KY 10,794
21) Go! St. Louis, MO 10,724
22) Cincinnati Flying Pig, OH 10,616
23) ING Georgia, GA 10,502
24) Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose, CA 10,412
25) Amica Insurance Seattle, WA 10,225
26) Aramco Houston, TX 9,917
27) Long Beach International City Bank, CA 9,835
28) Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles, CA (first) 9,641
29) MetroPCS Dallas White Rock, TX 9,586
30) Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras, LA 9,312

SOURCE: Running USA with Athlinks (2009-10) and Active.com (2005-08)