The Running Explosion

July 1, 2015

Our guest blogger, Ray Charbonneau, is a regular contributor to Marathon & Beyond magazine. In our current issue (July/August 2015), you can read his latest article, “Something to Run For: A Not-so-Short Story.”  

In a world where running a Boston qualifier doesn’t ensure that you’ll get in the race, sometimes it seems like everyone is a runner. We may be closer than you think to the day when that’s a reality.

When we look back on the history of running in the US, we like to talk about ‘running booms.’ The period in the 70’s when Frank Shorter won the Olympic Marathon, road races began accepting women, and Jim Fixx had a bestseller is usually called the ‘First Running Boom.’ Then, in the 90’s, when everyone and their Oprah discovered that even penguins could run the marathon, there was the ‘Second Running Boom.’ And somewhere in the mid-2000’s, when ultramarathoning took off and the women entering races outnumbered the men for the first time, the ‘Third Running Boom’ started – a boom that appears to continue to this day.

But that’s a paexplosion1rochial view of the history of running. If we take a broader look, one that recognizes the long and storied history embodied by the idea of ‘the loneliness of the long-distance runner,’ those ‘booms’ are just noise in the data. What’s actually going on is no mere boom. It’s more like an explosion, a nuclear chain-reaction in the process of going critical.

Let’s look at that data.

This first chart shows the change in the number of race finishers over time, both overall and at a variety of distances, using data from and Ultrarunning Magazine. You can see that there are no real ‘boom’ or ‘bust’ cycles. With only one exception, the curves are always going up. And that one exception, a single-year dip in marathon finishers, was not caused by any loss of interest, but when Hurricane Sandy forced New York to be cancelled, wiping out 40,000+ potential finishers.

I included a line in the chart for the US population over the same period. The population is rising, but it’s obvious that the increase in race finishers is not due solely to an increase in the overall number of people.

Now picture the long, relatively flat part to left of the curves shown here, the part that represents running prior to the 70’s, a time when there were so few organized races that a single publication, pasted together manually by a single person, could track all the results. And take note of the significant increase in the rate of increase in the 2000’s, especially at the shorter distances.

explosion2When you take the entire history of running into account, it’s apparent that the overall trend of participation in running events closely resembles an exponential growth curve.

It’s not a little boom, or a series of booms (and busts). It’s a running explosion!

What does this explosion mean for running in the coming years? Let’s look at that population curve and at the curve for the total number of event finishers in more detail.

I generated best-fit trendlines for those curves, which you can see on the first chart. They confirm that the US population is increasing steadily, in a relatively linear fashion, while an exponential formula is the best fit for the finishers’ trendline. Both formulas fit the data extremely well, as shown by the fact that the correlation coefficient (R2) is very close to 1.

Now let’s extend the current trends forward into the future. Here’s a final chart:

If things go on as they have been, by 2080 there will be a race finish for every man, woman, and child in the US. It’s science!









Ray Charbonneau is the author of a number of books on running. That number is currently four. Ray’s work has appeared previously in Marathon & Beyond and many other publications. His current project is the “Runner’s Book Bundle,” a specially-priced collection of 15 indie-publishing ebooks by runners for runners. All proceeds from sales of the “Runner’s Book Bundle” go to the Vermont Foodbank and the 100 Mile Club. Find out more at


March 17, 2015




DUBLIN – March 16, 2015 – Medtronic announced today that applications are open to runners around the world who benefit from medical technology to represent their country on the tenth Medtronic Global Heroes team. All runners with eligible medical devices are welcome to apply, regardless of device manufacturer.

In nine years, 209 runners representing 28 different countries and a myriad of disease conditions have run the beautiful course that winds through the lakes and neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Up to 25 runners will be selected to receive a paid entry for themselves and a guest to the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon or the Medtronic TC 10 Mile and a travel package that includes airfare, accommodations and a host of VIP events for the Global Hero and a guest.

Global Heroes is a cooperative effort between Medtronic Philanthropy and Twin Cities In Motion, the organizers of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and Medtronic TC 10 Mile.

“In 10 years, this program has grown to be one of the more unique running experiences in the world,” says Virginia Brophy Achman, executive director, Twin Cities in Motion. ”From the moment you are greeted at the airport, to crossing the finish line with thousands of cheering spectators, the Global Heroes will have an event weekend like no other.”

“Global Heroes are truly remarkable people representing remarkable stories,” says Jacob Gayle, vice president of Medtronic Philanthropy. “As we honor them, we also create a platform for them to share those stories with the world, reaching others with similar conditions and circumstances, and hopefully encouraging them to take action with their health.”

“It’s been amazing to see how this program has evolved from a concept in 2006 into one of Medtronic’s most embraced global programs,” says Dr. Steve Oesterle, Medtronic senior vice president of medicine and technology, accomplished marathoner, and driving force behind Global Heroes. “Each Global Hero who crosses that finish line, represents thousands of others who have been given an opportunity to live a full life.”

The 2015 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon weekend will take place October 2-4, 2015.

Applications and full information for the 2015 Medtronic Global Hero team are available at The application deadline is May 1, 2015. To qualify as a Global Hero, runners must currently be treated with a medical device therapy to treat the following disease conditions: heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, spinal disorders, or neurological, gastroenterology and urological disorders.

Runners will be chosen by a committee of Twin Cities In Motion. Certain conditions may apply and applicants must certify that they have discussed race participation with their physician.

About Twin Cities in Motion
Twin Cities In Motion organizes the region’s premier running events, including the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, a Top 10 U.S. Marathon. With a mission of promoting healthy lifestyles through running events and community outreach, TCM contributes a portion of every race dollar to local youth and professional athletes and helps raise more than $800,000 annually with its charity partners. Visit for more information.

About Medtronic and Medtronic Philanthropy
Medtronic plc (, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, is the global leader in medical technology – alleviating pain, restoring health and extending life for millions of people around the world. Medtronic Philanthropy focuses on supporting health and health access initiatives in communities where Medtronic employees live and give.

Editor’s Choice: Under Two Hours – and Beyond

January 5, 2015
Cover19.1SMIs the sub-2:00 marathon possible?
P. J. Christman
© 2015 42K(+) Press, Inc.

The marathon: a magic distance and event, one that requires ambition, planning, determination, courage, persistence, stamina, and endurance, all traits the Greek messenger Pheidippides was required to possess for his clarion journey.

For it was Pheidippides’s feat of running from Marathon to exhaustion and death in Athens, in order to announce nothing more than victory, that inspired the subsequent formal Olympic event. At the end of the 19th century, a modern-day race was designed to commemorate the approximate 25-mile distance he was thought to have run.

We can thank King Edward VII of England for the event’s current 26.2-mile or 42.195-kilometer Olympic distance. For when His Majesty gave permission for the start of the 1908 Olympic Marathon to be upon the East Lawn of Windsor Castle, the race to finish with one lap inside London’s White City Stadium, the Olympic marathon distance was increased from 24.85 miles to its present distance.

These popular contests on foot are thought to be among the planet’s more testing endeavors. For those of all abilities up to the challenge, it takes somewhere between two and six hours to complete. Many fail to finish. Others end up hitting “the Wall” where glycogen has run out and the muscles can no longer sustain pedestrian movement of even the most awkward or staggering nature.

Of course there are other, arguably more difficult challenges such as climbing Mount Everest, swimming the English Channel, hiking across the Sahara Desert, biking the Tour de France, or completing Ironman triathlons. These endeavors create their own cachet through difficult requirements involving the overcoming of great mental and physical barriers.

Each issue, we select an “Editor’s Choice”—an entire article we share with you online. Click here to read the entire article…

Ryan Hall Teams Up With MetroPCS Dallas Marathon as Elite Ambassador

September 17, 2014

IMG2_RH_LRDALLAS (September 15, 2014) – Two-time U.S. Olympic marathoner and American half marathon record holder Ryan Hall has signed a multiyear partnership agreement with the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon to serve as an ambassador for Dallas’ oldest and largest marathon. In addition to participating in the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon, Half Marathon and Behringer Relay weekend activities each December, Hall will appear in promotional campaigns for the event.

The 31-year-old Hall posted the best-ever American time in the marathon and has represented the U.S. in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. Hall made his marathon debut at the 2007 London marathon, where he placed seventh at 2:08:24, now the American record for a debut marathon. He is married to Sara Hall, also a professional distance runner, and together they operate the nonprofit Hall Steps Foundation, which funds mentoring and running programs for at-risk youth.

“I’m excited to partner with Dallas Marathon race organizers to bring a new twist to the race-day experience this December,” said Hall. “I love the energy and excitement of a major city marathon and look forward to helping deliver a memorable experience to all runners and spectators participating in the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.”

“Ryan Hall is one of the premier figures in American distance running,” said Patrick Byerly, president of the Dallas Marathon. “We’re excited to have such a notable runner on a national scale join us as an elite ambassador on race weekend, helping bring a memorable experience to each and every runner he interacts with.”

Runners wishing to participate in the 2014 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon, Half Marathon and Behringer Relay have through September 30 to register at current race prices of $120, $105 and $350, respectively. On October 1, fees for the marathon and half marathon will increase by $5, and Behringer Relay registration fees will increase $25 per team.

To learn more about the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon, visit

About the Dallas Marathon

The Dallas Marathon is a nonprofit organization with a focus on promoting health and physical fitness through running events and related activities. Dating back to 1971, the organization hosts year-round events culminating with Dallas’ largest and Texas’ oldest running marathon: the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon. Now in its 44th running, the marquee property attracts runners from across the globe and hundreds of thousands of spectators to Dallas’ largest single-day sporting event. The MetroPCS Dallas Marathon race course highlights iconic Dallas landmarks and is recognized as the official marathon of the city of Dallas. Since naming a primary beneficiary in 1997, the Dallas Marathon has donated more than $3.5 million to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. For more information, visit

Editor’s Choice: Stepping It Up

May 1, 2014
Cover 18.3 temp.inddStepping It Up.
Cara McLaurin Esau
© 2014 42K(+) Press, Inc.

Back in my day, we had to walk to and from school, uphill both directions, in 15 feet of snow. Even worse, we had to do any necessary research at the library using actual books. And it was painstaking. If we needed to seek opinions from others, we had to conduct surveys in person or on the phone. Now such labor is no longer necessary—not even among the race directors of popular marathons when they are brainstorming their latest medal designs. Some wise race directors do the same as young whippersnappers do these days: they turn to social media outlets for help. Social media is proving to be a boon for race directors (RDs) who want to improve their medal design to win the hearts and loyalties of their runners.

Each issue, we select an “Editor’s Choice”—an entire article we share with you online. Click here to read the entire article…

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