I'm a geek for trends and statistics, and I'm an even bigger geek when it comes to the health and fitness industry. So the announcement about the forthcoming release of Running USA's 2011 National Runner Survey really made me happy.
The survey is a comprehensive look at the demographics, lifestyle, habits and product preferences of the running population nationwide. It took into account the data provided by more than 11,000 respondents; these people represent what are known as "core runners" - active adult participants who tend to enter running events and train year-round.
And while the announcement about the publication of the survey made me happy, the data itself made me downright excited. Why? Because it bears out everything I always thought about those who get regular exercise: they're interesting, intelligent people with a good work ethic. Some of the more interesting factoids: Today's core runners are highly educated, with 77.2 percent having earned a college diploma (national average: 29.5 percent) and affluent, with 72.9 percent reporting a household income of more than $75,000 (national average: 32.4 percent). Surveyed runners are motivated to run in order to stay in shape (80.7 percent), stay healthy (77.4 percent), have fun (66.1 percent) and relieve stress (64.3 percent). Core runners report running/jogging an average of 213 days and logging nearly 1,269 miles per year. (Compare that to figures from Club Industry and American Sports Data, which notes the average home-gym user exercises 70 days during the year.) I have no idea whether a poll with a more broad scope, such as all those with a regular workout regimen, whether it's yoga, tennis or cardio equipment, would find a similar group of above-average responses, but it would be interesting to explore.
Where the survey really gets cool for me (due to my geekitude) is its examination of "marathon mania." U.S. marathons in 2010 recorded an all-time high of 507,000 finishers, which is an 8.6 percent increase over 2009, and the second largest increase in the past 25 years. (In 2009, participation in marathons surged by 9.9 percent.) Running USA attributed the explosion in popularity to a variety of factors - availability of training programs (both charity and non-charity driven), the challenge of running 26.2 miles, more women running marathons, and the fact that marathons are fun and well-organized community events.
The marathon is pretty much the Holy Grail of the running world. Examples in other sports would be cycling's 100-mile "Century" ride, the triathlon for multisport athletes, or the Appalachian Trail for hikers. It's too bad every sport doesn't have a similar ultimate goal. It might get a lot more people interested in training, even if just to cross something off their bucket list.