Do you know how many runners there are in the US? Take a guess. No…a little higher.
There are approximately 49.4 million runners. That is roughly 1 out of 6 people. Runners of all kinds: casual runners, committed runners, weekend warriors, sprinters, 5k runners, marathoners, ultra runners and everything in between.
If you haven’t noticed, as time goes on, races just become longer and longer and longer. Remember when the marathon used to be the ultimate distance running benchmark? Now you can run a 50 miler, the Leadville Trail 100 or the Badwater 135 mile race. Not enough? Try the self-proclaimed (and we agree) coldest and toughest race in the world – the Yukon Arctic Ultra. You can do up to 430 miles through snow and -50 degree temperatures. Still not enough? Line up for the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race in Queens next June.
We’re not saying these races are new, some of them have been around since the 1920’s, but they are newly popular. Ultrarunning is now glamorized and thanks to the famous Tarahumara in Born to Run and Marshall Ulrich’s feats in Running on Empty, the popularity will only increase.
But what if you don’t want to run that far?
Face the facts: you’re not Scott Jurek. You never will be. And that is OK. Really, it is. Scott didn’t get to where he was without a lot of hard work, training, and a LOT of running.
Running 5 miles at a time isn’t for everyone – let alone 26.2. If you don’t enjoy it or don’t have the available time to dedicate, then don’t do it! Our CEO Steven Sashen certainly doesn’t. He runs his distances in the shortest increments possible – as a Master’s All American sprinter for the 100 meter dash (and only a 60m dash during the indoor track season).
There are 8,023 5K USATF Active Certified Road Courses and only 847 marathons, with a measly 93 ultras tacked on for good measure.
For those of us that have run longer distances, if you do feel up to the challenge, seize the opportunity and register. Crossing the line after a marathon is a feeling that cannot be duplicated. But getting there requires a lot of training, patience and sacrifice. If you don’t have the interest or time, it’s not for you. In fact, if walking is all you want to do, go for it. Recent research from Kirk Erickson at the University of Pittsburgh shows that walking 6-9 miles per week keeps your brain from shrinking as you age.
Whether it’s the local Turkey Trot or the Boston Marathon, the goal is to have FUN and be healthy. Do a distance that feels good and allows you to enjoy yourself. Be proud of getting yourself out the door and keeping the blood pumping. If you can, leave the Garmin at home. Use your run as an opportunity to pay attention to your body, absorb your surroundings and release stress. Lose yourself in the rhythm and cherish those moments while you are in them. Run for no other reason than the sheer pure joy of running.
On that note…what is YOUR favorite distance or race to run?