Have you noticed the trend? Everyone seems to be running to every finish line in the country. According to the Running USA’s Annual Half-Marathon Report, half-marathons are the most popular running event and have been growing over the last decade. In the last 14 years, the amount of half-marathon finishers have increased by 284 percent. And 60% of all finishers were women. Sporting a race-bib is no longer a fashion trend for only the elite.
So where did this popularity in running come from?
While race registrations are not exactly cheap, it seems that people are opting for the price of of medals and closed-off courses instead of a gym membership. While the average cost of a race entry (not including parking fees, cost of travel and hotels) is about $100-$150, plus all the gear recommended to run a good race. The average cost of a gym membership is around $55 a month. At a glance, the numbers don’t seem to make sense, but let’s look further. A half-marathon training plan is 12 weeks (3 months), and a marathon training plan is 16 weeks (4 months). While many athletes find the gym is a good place to train for short distances, I’ve found that most people I know training for half-marathons and marathons prefer running on pavement outside to both prepare them for the conditions of the event, and to limit boredom you get on a treadmill. For three months with a gym membership instead of training for free you’d spend $165, for the four months you would $220. With those numbers, it actually makes sense to pay for a race registration as opposed to a gym membership.
On the note of training for a race instead of hitting the gym just to hit the gym, it may have to do with our need for motivation. According to Statistic Brain, 67% of people with gym memberships will never use them. An article titled This Is Why You Don’t Go To The Gym, argues that we are far more optimistic about how often we will go to the gym so we end up wasting money on memberships we never use. While no exact statistics exist on how many people don’t use their race registrations, it seems like most people believe it’s around 20% and that most people that don’t show for a race if they don’t get a refund, deferment or transfer, they are not too upset about the loss since the money goes to a charity and not just companies. So why are people more inclined to spend their money on running a long-distance race? By paying for a race, you give yourself a goal that you and everyone can see. Whereas by just purchasing a gym membership with the goal of getting in or staying in shape, the end result is a lot harder to see and accomplish. I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing quite like training for and finishing a long-distance race. Like most people, I need to know there’s a real finish line to train for.
A final reason for the rise in long-distance running is the social aspect. When I ran my first half-marathon, it was only because my mother and aunt had been running them for a while and had made it look so easy. For this same race, we also ended up having two extra entries that were going to go unused and two of my friends ended up getting roped in through intense peer pressure to run their first half-marathon as well. While many runners still run to win or take the event seriously, it is clear that this is not the norm any more. From tutus to superhero costumes and everything in between, it seems that the majority of people are running with their friends and with the sole purpose of having fun and saying they have done something that once was only for the most elite athletes.
So if you haven’t given into the norm of half-marathon and marathon running, maybe give it a try. Everyone seems to be doing it so why not you? Make sure to train and prepare yourself. Just because everyone is doing it that doesn’t exactly mean you should just jump into a race without any preparation.