Syracuse Online

Running Quantified

Sporting Big Numbers

Published September 8, 2003 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

In its annual state of the sport report, the Road Running Information Center of USA Track and Field (USATF) combined data from American Sports Data (ASD) and from the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), and concluded that running grew in popularity in 2002.

In numbers, 35,866,000 U.S. residents 6 years or older ran at least once, 24,700,000 ran six or more times, and 10,485,000 "frequent runners" ran at least 100 days in 2002. The studies estimated that 11,161,000 runners have been in the sport for 10 or more years, giving proof to the staying power of running.

New York City led the list of metropolitan areas with 2,162,000 runners, followed by Los Angeles with 1,912,000 and Washington with 1,027,000. San Francisco had 983,000 and Chicago showed 942,000, rounded up the top five.

On a per capita basis, San Antonio led the nation with 24 percent of its population running. Indianapolis and Norfolk followed with 22 and 21 percent, then Milwaukee and Minneapolis with 19 and 17 percent.

Women represented 44 percent of frequent runners. The ASD study reported 29 as the mean age, while the NSGA study showed it to be 33. USATF road race data estimated the average age of male runners at 39 and women at 35, with a 50/50 male/female ratio.

On the shoe front, NSGA reported sales of 34 million pairs of running shoes in 2002, at an average retail price of $51 and a total value of $1.732 billion, more than twice the total sales of basketball shoes.

Unfortunately, few runners used those shoes in races, as race participation continued to lag behind fitness running. There were 7,746,000 finishers in U.S. road races in 2002. The 5K charity race accounted for 3,021,000 finishers, followed by 1,029,000 in the 10K, 602,000 in 8K/5 miles, 450,000 in the marathon, and 516,000 in the half-marathon.

Participation by masters runners (40 years and older) increased 55 percent over the past decade to 3,160,000, accounting for 41 percent of finishers.

Masters representation was higher at the longer distance events, accounting for 43 percent of all marathoners. At ultramarathon distances, the mean age of runners grew to 41 for women and 43 for men.

Women played a dual role in road race data, accounting for the majority of participants in charity races, while distorting the finishing time statistics. The average time for 5K finishers was 43 minutes for all women, and about 51 minutes for masters women. Excluding charity races, women ran 5K races 10 to 15 minutes faster on average.

© 2003 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at