Is Running Losing the Popularity Race?

Is Running Losing the Popularity Race? |

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?

Linking up with Coaches Corner.

16 comments on “Is Running Losing the Popularity Race?

  1. Agreed, running is still going strong. I also switched to a healthier lifestyle, gave up smoking and started a SportMe app marathon training. My quest to a healthy life had a lot of ups and downs, but things are on the right track now. Your blog post are truly inspirational, txs!

  2. I would actually love to see a forced decline in a way because of all the things you mentioned – outrageous race entry fees, overcrowding and hard to get to start lines, etc. I love a bare bones, no nonsense race and I still favor those when planning my schedule. I’ve said many times that I’m done with the huge races because there’s too much drama involved without enough return on investment. Give me a low entry fee, a nice course and a simple finisher’s HAT or something else useful (or nothing at all!) and I’m good!
    Allie recently posted..5 Reasons the Road to the Pogue Trail Race was Exactly What I NeededMy Profile

  3. I don’t think running is becoming less popular–I think there were too many races and greedy race promoters; the novelty races were a fad; and running is evolving. There are more ultra races and trail races now. It’s an ever-changing sport. For those of us die-hards, that means more room at the starting line of our favorite races!

    Great food for thought!

  4. I’m not sure if it is becoming less popular it’s just that there are sooooo many races now and so many options like Spartans and things. Last weekend was Road to the Pogue and there was also a Trail 5K close by so people had to decide which one they would run.

  5. I agree that running is still going strong. For me, I race less because of the pricing, I’ll admit it. With the exception of maybe NYC, there aren’t any race experiences that are worth $250 or more to me. Plus my husband races too, so I always think in terms of paying double for races. Of course, this old timer complained, back in the 90s, when the LA Marathon went up to $45! 🙂

    You’re right, though. Many of the popular races that used to fill up immediately are now open right until the end. Races like Rock ‘n’ Roll offer really good deals if you sign up early enough. And sadly, some races go away altogether.
    Debbie recently posted..Tri Events LA Triathlon Series 10k Race ReportMy Profile

  6. it’s the cost for me. there was a 10k race in Plymouth a few weeks ago and the cost was $50. I use to race all.the.time but now, I don’t feel the need to. and while the races on the seacoast are pretty with the ocean right beside you, each race is nearly the same, just the start and end are different. i’d rather run a trail race than a road race these days and trails races are few and far between. there seems to be an uptick with mountain running but that doesn’t interest me either.

  7. I don’t think running is becoming less popular, but I do think people are racing less because of the costs associated with some races. For a while, it seemed like everyone (ie walkers and people who weren’t consistent runners) were doing all these races, and now it seems to be settling down to more of a runner thing again… which I am perfectly okay with because I don’t like crowded races. It seems like trail races (including mountain and snowshoe) are becoming more popular than some road races, probably because the relaxed atmosphere and something different.

  8. I don’t think that running is losing popularity but I do think that the racing market is oversaturated and it’s just really expensive. I have also become more selective – I prefer to do a few destination type races rather than a bunch of 5k races.

  9. I agree with those above who said there are just SO many races now that maybe there aren’t enough racers to go around, plus the costs are holding people back from racing as frequently.
    Like Allie, I prefer a bare bones race over the crazy expensive options for a fancier medal and shirt or food at the finish. I wish there were more simple races around!

  10. We have a local race series that is really cool. The fees are very low cost – like $25 for a 5k OR you can have a family member volunteer and you can run for free. It’s so refreshing – runners can jump into a race to test fitness without breaking the bank (they also have 10k and half marathons too). No one needs a race t-shirt anymore, I mean really – those days are over, ha! I am glad that I have so many so I can make a quilt with them, but don’t need more. I never got into the fad races (color run etc). As much as big marathons and races are epic for a once a year experience, I like no frills races too. I just don’t think people have to invest thousands of dollars (travel. lodging, race fees, etc) just to experience the joy of running.

  11. It’s sad if that true but I do agree they are getting quite expensive. It’s hard to afford multiple races a year. I ran my first marathon last year and I would love to do more…as soon as I’m not pregnant anymore 🙂

  12. Really appreciated, information shared was really fantastic, good job, keep sharing and make us aware through your article.

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  13. I have just saw a marathon in my city. There were few choices of distances – 2km, 3km, 7km, 21km. I think that helped more people to come because not everyone can run long distances. There were a lot more people than last year.

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