Study: Participation in Racing Held Steady in 2017 | Sports Destination Management

Study: Participation in Racing Held Steady in 2017

Aug 20, 2018

The numbers are in and the news is not surprising. For the vast majority of road races of all sizes across the U.S., participation held steady in 2017, according to an analysis of road race participation trends released today by national trade organization for the sport Running USA.

The number of people registering for U.S. road races in 2017 compared to the previous year declined only slightly, by less than 1 percent, according to data compiled by Running USA with the help of a consortium of The ACTIVE NetworkimATHLETERace RosterRunSignUp and many individual events.  This consortium of competitive online registration providers was a first in order to help Running USA look at race entries vs. race finishers.  (You can read more about that consortium here.)

U.S. running registrations in 2017 remained consistent with the total registrants in 2016. In 2017, there were a total of nearly 18.3 million registrants, down just slightly from 18.5 million in 2016. Despite a slowdown in growth in recent years, the 2017 data indicates that a healthy recreational running industry is thriving in the U.S.

“Americans are still turning out for competitive running events in droves,” said Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger. “The 2017 data road race participation data shows us that enthusiasm for the sport is alive and well in the U.S., although race directors know that it is crucial to work on adding incentives to keep their runner base coming back time and again to participate.”

The majority of runners of U.S. road races continued to be women in 2017, while the most popular race distance was the 5K, according to Running USA. Around 59 percent of participants in a given road race are female, while 41 percent are male. 

“The women’s running boom of more than 15 years ago remains healthy and strong,” said Harshbarger. “This is an asset for our sport and a trend that we expect to continue.”

Meanwhile, 5K events boasted 8.84 million registrants, claiming 49% of all registrants in the nation, while the half-marathon again held the No. 2 position with approximately 11% of the finishers,

For access to the full U.S. Road Race Trends report, Running USA members can login to the membership portal and download the PDF copy. If you're not yet a Running USA member, JOIN TODAY and receive the full report.

About the Report: A new methodology for collecting road race data was used for the upcoming release of summary reports on the 2017 running year. It resulted in the presentation of a broader, better picture of the health of the sport by sharing registration totals rather than participants who crossed a finish line. The report was made possible thanks to the help of four major registration companies (ACTIVE Network, imATHLETE, Race Roster, RunSignUp), as well as major race producers, and individual races, which allowed Running USA to create a customized process to collect information and summarize recent data trends.  For more information, visit

About Running USA: Running USA is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization devoted to improving the status and experience of distance running and racing in the United States through collective marketing and promotions, information and communications within the industry and to the national media, services to events and industry members, and the development of American world class stars. It seeks the advancement of the sport and the provision of value to each of its members' events and businesses. For more information, visit

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