aging · athletes · fitness · racing · running

Older women runners are the fastest growing running demographic

While I’m not able to run, it’s exciting to read about the changing demographic of the running community. In cycling I’m often the oldest woman rider and I spend a lot of time riding with men my age and older. That’s been true for be since I started riding. It’s true even in Zwift.

It’s okay. I like riding with men. But still I wonder, where are the women my age? Clearly, they’re running

Running, or at least the race community, is doing something right. Or women runners are doing something right. They’re keeping at it as they age which is lovely to see

40+ demographic takes lead in largest study of runners

“Among other things, the research revealed that the United States has the highest proportion of female runners; that the 40-49 year-old age group is fastest and most popular; that Slovenia, Iceland and Ukraine are fastest countries; and that the Boston Marathon boasts the fastest average run time of “popular races.”

“But perhaps the most encouraging finding for older adults is that those in the 90 to 99 year-old age group are the fastest growing population of runners today, increasing 39% from 2014 to 2017. Researchers called that particular finding “staggering.””

How demographics are affecting the running scene

For decades — a century, almost — road racing was a world of competitive men. Since emerging from the first running boom, however, the sport has quickly evolved. The competitive core is still there, leading the pack. But now that core is being chased through the streets by thousands upon thousands of new runners, many of them motivated by very different factors.

The numbers really began to change in the early 1990s when aging running boomers filled out the masters ranks. By 2000, 44 percent of marathon finishers were 40-plus. Growth of the women’s division was even more dramatic. Just 10 percent of marathon finishers in 1980 were female. That figure is now 40 percent, while women now make up more than half the finishers at many shorter distances.”

Running demographics

More women than men (53-47%) and the average of women runners now 38.6

4 thoughts on “Older women runners are the fastest growing running demographic

  1. This demographic seems to also be about how willing women are to take up something new and not be the best. And switching gears—I notice when I’m mountain biking that it’s incredibly rare to see any women my age (54), though older men are out. So, like you Sam, I often feel like I’m the oldest woman on wheels on the trails.

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  2. I love this! However, I was driving to the beach this morning and noticed how many men were out cycling on the road, but not a single woman! I do both running and cycling (although not cycling well these days because I’m limited to my mountain bike) and hope to continue both as I get older still. Keep up that activity ladies!

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  3. I’ve been running since my mid-twenties (off and on during work and children years). Now 69, I still try to run 5 days/week (seven days is too much strain so swim, hike, bike, Gyrotonics, etc.). The COVID mental health slump has shortened my runs, but without them, I would likely be going crazy! Not only are more masters and grand masters women running, but our times are getting better, particularly as we focus on strength training, cross-training, nutrition, etc. I want to be running with my grandchildren when I’m in my nineties!

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