Paul Ronto, an ultra-runner and a staff writer at RunRepeat.com, with Vania Nikolova, Ph.D. in mathematics, and the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), just released a new, exciting report—The State of Ultra Running 2020. It’s the first-ever comprehensive look at this rapidly-growing segment of the running world.
Over a period of five months, they analyzed 23 years of trends including 5,010,730 race results from 15,451 races around the world. It’s the largest data set of ultra-distance races ever compiled. There were just 34,401 ultra running participations back in 1996 and now they are 611,098.
They captured data for participation by country, by distance, participation by gender, average pace, gender differences in pace, pace differences by country, age and pace, and much more. It includes lots of charts and graphs.
Here are ten statistics that caught my attention. I provide these tidbits to peak your interest in reading the whole report.
- Participation has increased by 1676% in the last 23 years from 34,401 to 611,098 yearly participations and 345% in the last 10 years from 137,234 to 611,098. There have never been more ultra-runners.
- There have never been more women in ultrarunning. 23% of participants are female, compared to just 14% 23 years ago.
- Ultra-runners have never been slower across distance, gender and age group. The average pace in 1996 was 11:35 min/mile, currently, it is 13:16 min/mile. The average runner has added 1:41 min/mile to their average pace, which is a slowdown of 15% since 1996. We don’t believe that individual runners have become slower, but that these distances are attracting less prepared runners now because the sport is more mainstream.
- The majority of participants run one ultra per year, but there is a definite rise in the average number of runs per year – from 1.3 per year to 1.7 races per year.
- In 1996, only 14% of runners participated in multiple races a year, now 41% of participants run more than one event per year. There is also a significant increase in the % of people who run 2 races a year, 17.2% (from 7.7% to 24.9%) and 3 races, 6.7% (from 2.8% to 9.5%).
- Even though the % of women in ultrarunning is still small, it has actually never been higher. Over the last 23 years, the % of female participants relative to men has increased by 64% (a nominal increase of 9%).
- The longer the ultra-distance is, the better the pace of both female and male runners.
- People in Europe travel a lot more to foreign counties than the people in the US. This is due to the proximity of such countries and the open borders in the EU.
- Most ultrarunners choose a shorter distance for their debut in ultra-running. Then they challenge themselves more and more until their 15th race. After that with age and experience, they start choosing shorter distances, and we can extrapolate that they run more for pleasure than for achievement.
- The pace of the ultra-runners changes during their careers. In the beginning, despite the fact that they are running shorter races, their pace is quite slow. With experience, it gets better and better in their first 20 races. After that runners, get set in their comfortable pace, and it stays quite stable.
Here’s the link to access The State of Ultra Running 2020.
Thank you, Paul Ronto, Vania Nikolova, with the help of RunRepeat.com, and the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) for this comprehensive report.
About the researchers
The study is a product of collaboration between Paul Ronto and Vania Nikolova. Ronto is an avid runner with 6 marathons under his belt and RunRepeat’s Content Director. Nikolova holds a Ph.D. in Mathematical Analysis.
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About the International Association of Ultrarunners
The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) is an organization that is operating under the patronage of the IAAF and is dedicated to develop ultradistance running internationally within the IAAF Rules & Regulations. As the international governing body for ultradistance running, one of our main objectives is to promote and develop long-distance running worldwide by encouraging specific activities in each of the IAAF Continental Areas.