Just seven tiny years ago, I couldn’t have told you how far the 26.2 mile beast was. I didn’t even know what 5K meant. Now, the race of epic proportions is just part of my daily life and vernacular. I used to think this made me unique, different from the crowd. I didn’t just run, I was a marathoner. In the seven years that I’ve called myself a runner, the world of running has changed pretty dramatically. I may not be as set-apart as I thought.
The registration numbers are growing tremendously as the marathon seems to be a “must-do” item on so many people’s “bucket lists.” I like the idea of more runners, but I’m not so sure the quantity increase is bringing more quality to the sport. Don’t hear me wrong, there’s room for many speeds in running, but is there room for people who don’t train properly? Is the marathon really a place for someone who doesn’t respect the distance? Bottom line: what’s happening with the marathon? What’s it becoming? And what are the side effects of all of these people taking on the once exclusive 26.2 mile race?
Research published in 2012 and reported by StrideNation.com stated that marathoners used to be one in a thousand. Now, for every 607 Americans, one of them finished a U.S. marathon in 2011. The annual report from Running USA also stated that since 2000 there has been a 47 percent increase in in the number of marathon finishers nationwide. These increases are being seen outside the charts and surveys. In 2011, the New York City Marathon had more than 47,000 finishers. This made for the largest race ever held.
Other large scale signs are being seen in what happens when marathoners attempt to sign up for the major races. In 2010, those attempting to register for the 2011 Boston Marathon crashed the race’s website and the event filled within hours. This race requires qualifying times, so not just any runner could sign up, but the number of eligible filled the slots quickly, something that rarely ever happened in recent past. This forced Boston to change their qualifying times and registration process.
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