There’s a half marathon in my area that sells out months in advance of its annual running in mid-May. It’s been that way for years. It’s a flat, fast course along the seacoast of New Hampshire. What’s not to love about that? It’s easily one of my favorite local half marathons. I was shocked when I got an email last week saying that there were still bibs available for the race. And as of today, 5 days away from race day, it’s still open.
Another local, long standing 5k just ran it’s last race. The organizers pulled the plug on holding the annual fundraiser because they weren’t getting enough participants even though it was a huge money maker for years.
All of this has me wondering, is running losing the popularity race?
To me, someone who is still deeply in love with running, it doesn’t seem that way. I still have many friends who are running strong. My social media feed is full of race reports and running photos every single day. Just search under #MedalMonday and you’ll see an endless stream of photos.
So why are some races having trouble finding participants?
It’s no secret that running and running races, is not cheap. Race entry fees continue to increase. Remember when it was only $10 to enter a race? It’s very, very rare to see that number in 2019. It takes a lot of money to put together a race so that’s understandable. And with more people wanting bigger race bling and a banging after race party, the race fees are just going to keep climbing. For the major marathons, like Boston and New York, you pay a high entry fee, but you get an experience in addition to a race. But what about the smaller marathons that are charging $130-150? What do you get with that? You may get a shirt, a medal and maybe a ticket for a beer from the beer tent afterwards but usually it’s not much more than that.
Or is it that running is still popular but not as many people want to race? I know I’m leaning towards that opinion. A few years ago, I was running at least 10 or more races a year of various distances. Now, I’m selective. I don’t feel like I need a race on the calendar to push myself. Sometimes the race day headaches of all the logistics just don’t seem worth the hassle. I don’t like to collect race bling. I don’t need another race t-shirt. I much prefer bare bones races that don’t offer anything extra. Maybe if more races went back to the basics, more people would come back? Maybe that’s why it seems like ultra’s are growing in popularity? There’s less of them and there’s no fan fare. There’s no fireworks, no bands along the course, just runners doing their thing.
If you are one of those runners who does like to race, than you have no shortage of options on any given weekend throughout the year. Before you’d see the majority of races held in the spring and fall. Now it’s not uncommon to see multiple races in February or July, a time when it would be considered “too cold” or “too hot” for racing. Now anything goes. The racing market is saturated from the 5k to the marathon.
It does seem like the theme races like The Color Run, Zombie Run and others have faded away. I can’t say I’m surprised…or sad about that. 🙂 I’m sure there will be something in the next few years that will take its place.
Even though it seems like racing is declining, the popularity of running is still going strong. Running clubs are seeing new members all the time. I’m seeing runners in my town every single day. Or maybe I think this because I’m part of the population that is still going strong? I don’t know. The future of running is wide open. Races are going to change but runners are still going to be running regardless.
Do you think running is losing its popularity?
Do you like running races with lots of perks or prefer bare bones?
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