Global Running Participation – Where do You Fit?

The folks over at RunRepeat are best known for their comprehensive athletic shoe reviews. Recently added to their website is an updated and comprehensive report on global running participation.

The results of the report includes 70,000 races from 1986 to 2018. Distances included vary from the 5K to the marathon. The report reflects activity by recreational runners only and does not include elite runners or results from fundraiser walks or park runs.

Along with the statistical information, the authors identified some trends they see developing. Overall, runners have become older and slower (raising my hand here), there is a slight downward trend in race participation which may or may not continue, more runners are interested in destination races (raising my hand here as well) and more runners are women (yes, my hand is up again).

Another observation is that runner motivation may have shifted from performance goals to more psychosocial goals. I see this among some running friends where the social side of running has gained importance. However, I doubt the day has come when most runners aren’t feeling that competitive drive, regardless of how slow our pace has become.

I find statistical information on who is running particularly interesting. Not that I understand how they crunch the numbers, but I am curious how many of ‘me’ are out there.

There is a lot to cover in this report. Likely everyone who takes a look will see something interesting jump out.

For instance, it’s not surprising to see that the US has the largest number of participants, but is also the slowest. I personally think this speaks to the atmosphere of inclusivity within the running communities in the USA.

I was surprised to see that for the marathon, based on distribution of participants by race distance, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands have the most marathon runners. In that respect, the USA is 13th, sandwiched between Belgium and Canada.

The USA has the largest number of 5K runners. Having said that, in finish times we rank 24th among 35 counties. Since this is the gateway distance for most runners in the US, our low rank could be anticipated.

Worldwide, the popularity of the half marathon is growing. At that distance, Russia and Belgium have the highest rankings for men and for women.

The number of women runners worldwide now tops the numbers of men runners. Iceland has the highest proportion of female participants, followed by the USA and Canada.

It will be interesting to see what the mapping will look like in another two or three years. We runners have been without our usual race calendar for more than a year. My prognosis is that there will be a jump in the numbers of race participants at every distance as we will once again be able to safely share outdoor space in competition. I for one am ready to be back at the start line.

If you would like to take a ballpark view of where your times fit with the mapping of global participation, her is a link to the RunRepeat comparison tool.

What do you find particularly surprising in the report? Are you among the runners who have begun racing in other countries or other areas of your own country?


  1. Thank you for the run repeat comparison tool. It gives me renewed hope in the 60+ category!

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