By Jay Kumar
---- — 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:
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.
In the 2012 Boston Marathon, 42 percent of the 26,656 race entrants were women. Half marathons have grown in popularity during this second running boom with 1.6 million finishers, 59 percent of whom were female in 2011.
There has also been an increase in “women-only” events, with more than 200 in the U.S. in 2011 with 95 percent or more female participation. There were 18 women-only events with more than 2,000 finishers and 12 of the top 30 women-only races were half marathons. According to Running USA, these events include the Disney and Nike women-only races, Lady Speed Stick Women’s Half Marathon series, ZOOMA Women’s Race series, Divas Half Marathon series, the Thelma & Louise Half Marathon and Project Athena events. Locally, an early pioneer in this arena was the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, held every Columbus Day in Boston; the race began in 1977.
Amazingly, the running scene on the North Shore and nationally continues to grow, and women are leading the way.
Starts and stops
Enjoy a challenging race this Sunday at 9 a.m. with the Olde Salem Greens 5K, held at Olde Salem Greens golf course, 65 Wilson Road, Salem. The cross-country race includes awards, raffles and post-race food. The event is part of the Salem race series. For more information, contact Tim Short of the Salem Park, Recreation and Community Services Department at 1-978-744-0180, ext. 20.
A week later, the running festivities continue with the St. Patrick’s Day Recovery Run 5K. The race takes place March 24 at 11 a.m. at the Hibernian Hall, 105 Federal St., Lynn. The race has a 5K loop course, prize money to the top three males, females, and youth, and food and DJ. Contact Karyn Coulon (Ancient Order of Hibernians) at 1-781-598-6020.
On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming races Wednesday, March 20: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William's Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail email@example.com. Thursday, March 21: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Wednesday, March 28: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William's Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail email@example.com. Thursday, March 29: No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.northshoreroadraceguide.com/race-calendar for more race listings.