Running: Marathon mania continues

Posted: March 31, 2014

Running USA, a nonprofit advocacy group for the sport of road racing, released is annual marathon report last week, and the numbers are not exactly surprising: Marathon mania continues.

Marathons had 541,000 finishers last year, an all-time high, beating the previous record of 518,000 in 2011. (The 2012 number would have most likely been higher if the New York City Marathon, with its 50,000 runners, hadn't been canceled after Hurricane Sandy.)

For some perspective: In 1990, marathons had 224,000 finishers. The marathon has grown more than 140 percent since then.

"I was checking our report from 15 years ago - we had titled it 'Marathon mania,' " said Ryan Lamppa, media director of Running USA. "It's still going. Year in, year out, there's a 4 to 6 percent growth rate in the marathon."

Lamppa attributes this growth to a lot of factors: There are more marathons now than ever, over 1,100 a year.

"Almost any city of note now in America has a marathon," he said, and most of the growth is in those small- to medium-size races that haven't already been selling out, which is where he expects to see more expansion in the future.

Running is a more-embracing sport for women, too. In 1980, 10 percent of marathon finishers were women. In 2013, that number hit 43 percent, another record.

The prices of marathons have grown as well, at about 5 percent a year. In 2006, the average marathon registration fee for the largest 100 races was $66. Now it's $90. Last year, the Philadelphia Marathon cost $95 to $135, depending on when a participant registered. Registration for the marathon, half-marathon and 8K opens Tuesday for the races on Nov. 22 and 23.

"Like any business, what you try to do is get to a price point that makes you a profit or increases revenue and yet still keeps people wanting your product," Lamppa said. "Since so many of our larger marathons are still selling out, I don't think they've really reached the top of their price point yet."

He pointed to the New York City Marathon, which charges $11 just to enter its lottery - and thousands still pay it, even though the chance of getting into the race ranges from 7 to 17 percent.

But this growth also means there are cheaper and smaller alternatives, Lamppa said. For example, in 2013 Running USA found 221 races with fewer than 100 finishers each - double what that number was a decade ago.

More races mean more choice, Lamppa said. So while I can chose to throw away $11 for a shot at getting into the New York City Marathon and then pay $255 if chosen (I wasn't), I can also choose a smaller race, like the Rehoboth Beach Marathon, which costs $80 if I sign up by Monday.

I've tracked this sport since 2006, and the growth is still sometimes astounding - but also encouraging since the options have grown along with the number of finishers. Getting shut out of a race you wanted to run because it's selling out - that stinks. But there's always another race on another weekend close to that marathon or half-marathon you wanted. To me, that's what is most encouraging about the report.


Racing Schedule


These Boobs Are Made for Walkin' 4-mile run, 10 a.m., walk, 10:15. Rowan Rec Center, Rowan University, Glassboro. Fee: $30.

John Gentile Memorial Scholarship 5K, 9 a.m., Washington Lake Park, 626 Hurffville-Cross Keys Rd., Sewell. Fee: $30 post.

Erin Sullivan 5K, 9 a.m., Galloway, N.J. Fee: $20. Richard Stockton College.

Ocean Drive Marathon, 10-Mile, 5K, 1.5-mile fun run, 9 a.m., Sea Isle City, 450 Bay Ave. Fee: $30-$100 depending on event. Marathon course is on barrier islands of Cape May County.

2d Annual O'Hara Leprechaun Run,Fun Run and KidsDash, 5K Run/Walk:

10 a.m. Cardinal O'Hara H.S. Register (click on events tab). Registration: 9 a.m.

April 5

"Fourth Spring Run" 6K cross-country run at the Institute Woods. Princeton Friends School. 6K starts at 10. Fee: $35. Questions:

Jog for Joints, 5K run/walk, 8:30 a.m., St. Mary Child Development Center on the St. Mary campus in Langhorne.

April 6

19th Annual Bucks 5K Series, New Hope-Solebury Spirit Run 5K, New Hope Pa., 9:30 a.m.

Tails & Trails 5K Run/3K Walk, trail run at Main Line Animal Rescue in Chester Springs,

9 a.m. Fee: $20 ($25 after April 1).

Kevin Cain Make My Day 5K, 3 p.m., Annunciation Parish Hall, Havertown. On-site registration opens 1:30. Fees: 5K, 1-Mile Walk: Preregistered: Adults, $25; Kids 13&under, $10 - Plus online registration fee. Race day: Adults, $30; Kids, $15.

Art & Sole 5K Run & 1K Walk, 9 a.m., Alverthorpe Park & Abington Art Center, Abington. Fee: $27 adults, $12 (15 and under). For more info 215-887-4882 or

April 12

Speak All Abilities 5K, 9:30 a.m., Eastern High School, 1401 Laurel Oak Rd., Voorhees. Fee: $20 pre, $25 post, $50 family entry

3d Annual Fishtown 5K & St. LauRUNtius Finish Line Block Party, 9:30 a.m. 1600 E. Berks St. (Fishtown). Registration: $30.


AIM Race to Read 5K, Schuylkill Trail,

9 a.m., AIM Academy, 1200 River Rd., Conshocken. Fee: Pre for 5K, $25, $30 race day; $10 for the 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk.

13th Annual 5K Butterfly Run and 1-mile Fun Walk, 9 a.m. Great Valley High School, Malvern. Register: at Bryn Mawr Running Co. until 4/9,

Run for the Ages 10K, 5K, Brandywine Park in Wilmington. 1901 N. Market St. $20 pre-registration; then $25; $35 for both 10K and 5K. Registration: 7:30, 10K: 8:30; 5K, 5K walk, senior stroll: 10.

Get the Lead Out 5K, 10K, Mile Walk, 9 a.m., Wissahickon High School. Register at Fee: $35.

April 19

6th annual Univest Capital 5K, 8:30 a.m. Neshaminy State Park, 3401 State Rd., Bensalem. Plus Fee: $25. Register at

2d Annual Child Guidance Resource Center's Empower the Children 5K Run/Walk, 9 a.m. 1 mile fun run: 8:30. Westgate Park, Havertown. (keyword Child Guidance). Fee: 5K: pre $25, then $30; Fun Run: $15.

Evesham Township Police Unity Tour Memorial 5K, 8:30 a.m., 42 E. Main Street, Marlton. Fee: $25. Evesham Township Police Unity Tour Team.

3.21 Run for Down Syndrome, 9 a.m., Lehigh Parkway, Allentown, Pa. Fee: $25 until 4/17. $30 race day.


Running: 2013 Marathon Finishers

Marathon   Runners   Date   

Philadelphia   10,909   Nov. 11   

Dick's Pittsburgh   4,834   May 5   

New Jersey (Long Branch)   2,256   May 5   

Steamtown (Scranton)   2,166   Oct. 10   

Lehigh Valley (Bethlehem)   1,361   Sept. 8   

Erie   977   Sept. 15   

Atlantic City   825   Oct. 13   

Rehoboth Beach Seashore   807   Dec. 7   


E-mail date, name of race, site, time and fee, plus registration information, to sports editor John Quinn at Put Running calendar in re: field.

comments powered by Disqus