More people run than do any other sport on the planet, but a trend towards sedentary lifestyles, particularly among young people, still threatens the health of our communities, IAAF CEO Jon Ridgeon warned in his opening address at the first IAAF Global Running Conference, in Lanzhou, China yesterday.
The three-day conference of 600 attendees, representing 100 IAAF Label races from around the world, is discussing the benefits that mass participation road races bring to host cities, the economic benefits to cities, the health benefits to participants and their demographics, as well as best practices for organising events in environmentally sustainable ways.
The largest study of race results in history was presented yesterday, with conclusions based on data from more than 107 million race results across more than 70,000 races from 1986 to 2019 mostly in Europe and North America.
The research, conducted by the IAAF and RunRepeat.com, showed:
- a small decline in mass participation running events over the past few years, mostly in Europe and North America
- marathon distance gets most of the attention, yet it accounts for only 12% of race results
- runners have never been older, with an average age of 34 in 1986 and 39 in 2019
- finish times of male runners have never been slower while female participants have recently improved
- for the first time in history there were more female runners than male runners in 2018, with 50.23% of runners being female
- the fastest recreational nation was determined to be Spain with an average finish time of 3:53:59 followed by Switzerland (3:55:12) and Portugal (3:59:31)
Commenting on the research, Jens Jakob Andersen, founder and CEO of RunRepeat.com, said: "There have never been more people who travel to participate in races. The language barriers are being broken down by more people than ever traveling to non-English speaking countries and with motivations that are focused on social, health and physiological benefits."
IAAF CEO Jon Ridgeon said: "At the IAAF, promoting physical activity sits at the heart of what we are in business to do. We all need to do more to make running a lifestyle choice. We all want to get the world to move and we need to grow our base of regular runners.
"The research from RunRepeat.com shows that mass participation events are essentially a broadly aging and primarily middle-class activity, which means we need to help individuals who like running by themselves to stay fit and healthy to find new ways to enjoy running in mass events and encourage others to aspire to this lifestyle, to this way of life. This will take campaigning, collaboration and coordination by cities, event organisers and private partnerships. Habits and lifestyle choices are often ingrained at an early age so we need to tackle the decline of physical activity in young people around the world," added Rigeon.
China has witnessed explosive growth in road running over the past decade, in terms of both the number of events organised and the number of people taking part. In 2018, 1,581 sanctioned road running races were held in China compared to just 22 in 2011. During that same period, participation grew from 400,000 runners to 5.83 million runners.
The Vice President of the Chinese Athletics Association, Ms Wang Nan, said: "Marathon running has boomed in China in recent years. In 2018, there have been a total of 14 IAAF Label road races: eight Gold Label, four Silver Label and two Bronze Label, which means that China now has the most Gold Label races of any country in the world. The IAAF Running Conference China 2019 is regarded as an opportunity for deeper communication of both Chinese knowledge and international concepts. It not only brings the spotlight to Lanzhou, but it also creates more chances for collaboration between Chinese marathons and the global road running industry."
IAAF Run 24:1, a global campaign that kicks off on Sunday 2 June with 24 cities taking on the challenge of a mile run in city centres, parks or other iconic locations across 24 hours to encourage people to run or walk their first mile, is one of the projects the IAAF is undertaking to encourage and inspire the world to move. For more information on a city taking part near you visit run24-1.sport.
The The State of Running 2019 report can be found at RunRepeat.com.