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March 15, 2013

On The Run: Women power the new running boom

There’s no doubt the North Shore, and the running world in general, is in the middle of a running renaissance. There are more road races than ever before, and more runners signing up for races. There are more race series, more obstacle events, more everything.

There are many factors behind this new running boom, but a big reason is simple:

Women.

More than ever, women have taken up running in huge numbers — and this has become a great thing for the sport.

According to Running USA’s 2012 State of the Sport report, there were 7.6 million female road race finishers in the U.S. in 2011, a record high. Women made up 55 percent of race finishers, compared to 25 percent in 1990.

It’s not that men are running any less; indeed, the 6.2 million male road race finishers in 2011 also set a new high. There are just more runners, and increasingly, they’re women.

Approximately 55 percent of road race finishers in 2011 were between the ages of 25-44 (with a higher percentage of females in this age range), with the average age of a timed finisher being 35.8 years, Running USA found. Females in the 25–34 age category have the highest percent representation of all age categories. The average female road racer continues to be approximately three years younger than her male counterpart, according to the report.

It’s quite a journey from 1967, when Kathrine Switzer registered for the Boston Marathon using her initials and last name, received a bib number and started the race before official Jock Semple tried to drive her off the course.

Subsequent pressure led to women being officially allowed to run; in 1972, there were nine female runners officially entered in the race. Title IX was passed later that year, leading to growing female participation in long distance events, up to 53 percent of finishers nationwide compared to less than 20 percent during the first running boom in the 1970s, according to Running USA.

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