Running USA: Running Defies The Great Recession

Running USA's State of the Sport 2010 - Part II

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – (June 16, 2010) – Unlike most of the economy, the Running Industry continues to be recession-resistant as 2009 proved to be another year of astounding growth in virtually every sector. From record or sold-out fields across the country, the number of finishers in the sport has increased dramatically as evidenced by the record 467,000 marathon finishers, nearly a 10% increase over the previous year, and more than 1.1 million half-marathon finishers, an incredible 24% growth in 2009, according to the Running USA Marathon and Half-Marathon reports. Overall, in 2009, Running USA estimates that there were approximately 10 million U.S. road race finishers (another record high).

Tied to participation, the number of individuals registering online for running events was up 15% in 2009 compared to the previous year and more than 72% of running events experienced growth in online registration, according to The Active Network, Inc., a technology and media company and the largest provider of sports registration software for endurance events in the United States.

Runner’s World magazine also increased its newsstand sales by 3.6% in the second half of 2009, improved its market share over competitors by 13%, and saw a boost in subscriptions generated from online channels with 59% growth, all of this despite price increases in 2006 and 2008.

A Sport for Everyone
Running has grown into a sport that everyone can enjoy – no matter what age, shape or size. The decision to participate in certain activities is largely motivated by those who want more value from their time, and that’s why consumers are looking for activities that are relatively affordable, especially in today’s economy, states the Physical Activity Council (PAC). Running continues to post increases in activity, because it is inexpensive, can be done anywhere at anytime, no membership fees required and no need for a partner. Just lace up your shoes, get out the door and go!

For 2009, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association reports significant increases in total running participants, estimating more than 43 million total runners nationwide and a 6.7% gain since 2008. Core participants (50+ days/yr) and frequent participants (100+ days/yr) reported greater than 9% growth for 2009. Participation in running activities has increased substantially the last nine years with running/jogging total participation up 40%, running/walking on the treadmill 38%, walking for fitness 21%, and trail running up 16%, according to SGMA. See Table 1 for running participation numbers.

Table 1: U.S. Running Participation Numbers for 2009

Total Participants (’08 – ’09 +/-)
SGMA (1) Total Runners Run/Jog at least once 43,892,000 (+6.7%)
SGMA (1) Core Participants Run/Jog 50 days/yr 25,559,000 (+9.2%)
SGMA (1) Frequent Runners Run/Jog 100+ days/yr 16,446,000 (+9.8%)
SGMA (1) Total Trail Runners Run on Trails at least once 4,833,000 (-0.5%)
NSGA (1) All Runners Run/Jog 6 days/yr 32,212,000 (-10.3%)
NSGA (1) Frequent Runners Run/Jog 110+ days/yr 7,949,000 (+2.1%)

The Bad Economy Fuels Growth
Running experts are finding that when the economy reached “gloom and doom”, the number of new runners surged. So, go ahead and blame it on the economy. Running USA researcher Ryan Lamppa states that running is an efficient way to exercise, a fast way to lose weight and an inexpensive way to socialize. In addition, running “gives you something to control – you can’t control the stock market or the economy, but you can control your health,” says Lamppa.

Running offers individuals a sense of structure, control and the opportunity to set new goals. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, there are no direct statistics correlating unemployment to the surge in race participation, but as job losses have reached historic highs, so too has the number of individuals participating in running events (Holmes, 2010). And according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the “changing economic landscape could forever alter the way Americans view recreational and competitive athletics, as more people discover the joys of training and competing” (Albergotti, 2009).

Despite the economy, running is as popular as ever. According to Fiscally Fit: How the economic downturn is and isn’t affecting your running life (Lee, 2009), a survey of nearly 2,000 runners, 75% of the respondents said the downturn in the economy has not reduced their running and 69% planned to run in the same number of races in 2009 as they had the year prior. But for the those who said the economy has made an impact on their running, many found themselves entering fewer races, wearing their running shoes a little longer before replacing, staying closer to home by competing in local races, not renewing their club memberships and finding other ways to keep costs down such as foregoing the race t-shirt and looking for online promotional codes.

Social Media’s Impact
Let’s face it, social networking is also a key element driving individuals to go the distance. According to Running in Marathons: Facebook Made Me Do It (Webley, 2010), Facebook is the ideal forum for broadcasting one’s goal to complete a marathon. A review of account pages and status updates suggests that a large number of individuals seem to be training to run a marathon, whether asking for donations, joining specialty support training groups, expressing their feelings about the approaching race or posting status updates from each mile-marker.

In short, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter provide a community platform to announce one’s goal and when it’s out there for everyone to see, it makes one more likely to stick with it. Race directors and events are also jumping on the bandwagon by utilizing social networking to brand and to communicate with and recruit their race participants.

Running Footwear Up, Sports Apparel Down
The National Sporting Goods Association’s (NSGA-2) “Sporting Goods Market in 2010” reports that total running/jogging shoe sales surpassed $2.36 billion in 2009, an increase of 3% in total dollars sold over the previous year. However, while total dollars were up as a result of the 3% average increase in price, the total units sold decreased by -1%. Sales are projected to grow an additional 3% to $2.42 billion for 2010. While not the largest increase seen in the last 10 years (10.4% increase in 2004), total dollar sales for running/jogging footwear continue to increase at a steady rate. See Table 2 below for historical shoe sales figures and distribution channels.

SGMA (2) reported $3.35 billion in running footwear sales, up 6% in 2009. While total athletic footwear sales dropped -0.8% across the board, running shoes topped the list and reported the highest percent gain for 2009. The only other athletic footwear category to report an increase was outdoor/adventure shoes at 4% for the year, while all others reported a decrease. Running shoes are projected to increase to $3.49 billion (4%) for 2010.

NSGA (2) reports that athletic and sports clothing purchases totaled $9.25 billion in 2009, down -9% from the previous year. Of total athletic and sports clothing purchases, running apparel purchases during the same time period decreased -3% to $883 million.

The 713 U.S. running specialty stores represented by Leisure Trends Group retail sales tracking reported $685 million in sales for 2009. Running shoes showed a healthy 9% increase in total dollar sales for January – December 2009, up to $443 million, with stability (sport/fitness) shoes accounting for the majority. Running apparel experienced an –8% decline in total dollar sales from the previous year.

Table 2: Jogging & Running Footwear Sales in U.S. (NSGA - 2)

1988 1998 2008 2009
Running Shoe Units 25.31 million 29.41 million 39.99 million 39.76 million
Running Shoe Dollars 987 million 1.47 billion 2.31 billion 2.36 billion
Sales Channels - % of Units
Discount Stores 16.0% 14.8% 12.8% 22.0%
General Sporting Goods 22.0% 15.9% 16.3% 20.2%
Specialty Athletic Footwear 22.1% 22.1% 16.0% 17.6%
Online Internet - - 9.4% 10.9%
Factory Outlet - 7.0% 7.4% 7.7%
Family Footwear 12.4% 10.4% 11.0% 7.2%
Department Stores 17.7% 16.1% 19.2% 6.7%
Specialty Sport Shops 3.0% 4.9% 4.7% 4.1%
Mail Order 2.6% 5.7% 1.4% 1.4%

Upcoming Running USA State of the Sport reports will feature gender and age group demographics, event finisher totals by distance and the largest races nationwide for 2009.

SOURCES: = The Active Network delivers integrated technology solutions, marketing services and online media properties that enable and encourage participation in activities and events. For more information, visit:

Albergotti, R. (2009, July 16). Fast times for jobless runners: As unemployed amp up their training, marathon results and participation rise. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 1, 2009 from

Holmes, B. (2010, March 18). Training for the L.A. Marathon provides structure and solace to the newly jobless. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from

Lee, Yishane. (2009). How the economic downturn is—and isn’t—affecting your running life. [electronic version]. Runner’s World, June 2009.

Leisure Trends Group = Specialty retail market intelligence, consumer research and relationship marketing solutions. Data obtained via retail market intelligence software, RetailTRAK. To obtain further information, email:, phone (303) 786-7900, or go to

NSGA = National Sporting Goods Association. (1) = NSGA Sports Participation in 2009, Series I, II, State-by-State, (2) = NSGA Sporting Goods Market in 2010, based on retail sales in the U.S. projected from consumer surveys of 80,000 households. To obtain information on any of the NSGA products and services, email:, phone (847) 296-6742, or go to

PAC = Physical Activity Council’s Sports, Fitness and Recreation Participation – Overview Report in 2010, based on a research project in the United States tracking sports, fitness and recreation participation covering 117 different sports during the 2009 calendar year. A total of 40,141 online interviews were carried out with a nationwide sample of individuals and households from the US Online Panel operated by Synovate. For more information visit:

Rodale, Inc. = A global media company with a heritage, mission and authority dedicated to the health and wellness of the individual, community and planet. The company publishes some of the best-known health and wellness lifestyle magazines including Runner’s World. For more information, visit:

Running USA = Running USA advances the growth and success of the running industry in America. State of the Sport reports, many types of running data and lists of the largest races from past years can be found on in the “Statistics” section. For other questions about running trends and demographics, contact or

SGMA = Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. (1) = 2010 SGMA Sports & Fitness Participation Topline Report, based on participation numbers in the U.S. projected from online interviews of a nationwide sample, (2) = Manufacturers’ Sales by Category 2010, based on estimated dollar sales by category. To obtain information on any of the SGMA products or services, email:, phone (301) 495-6322, or go to

Webley, K. (2010, April 2). Running in marathons: Facebook made me do it. TIME Magazine. Retrieved April 3, 2010, from,8599,1977249,00.html#ixzz0jxkU....




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