Who runs the (running) world? GIRLS! Women have taken over the running space, now owning over 57 percent of it when it comes to U.S. race finishers.
Historically women have been a small minority of overall race finishers. So what caused the shift?
In 1984, American Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first women’s Olympic marathon, 88 years after the first men’s Olympic marathon. A trickle of female amateurs followed her into running.
A decade later, Oprah Winfrey finished the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in the Washington, D.C., area in just under 4½ hours, wearing bib No. 40 to reflect her age. Thousands of people cheered her on along the course and at least three reporters ran the race with her to cover her feat.
Men made up 68% of U.S. road-race finishers at the time. After Ms. Winfrey’s finish and with a rapidly expanding number of women’s races, their participation surged. Women surpassed male finishers by 2010.
Women have flocked to running more than other endurance sports. Less than 15% of USA Cycling’s 62,000 members are women, a spokesman says. The group oversees all major disciplines of competitive cycling. About 47% of the 63,000 members of U.S. Masters Swimming, a nationwide training group for swimmers age 18 and above, are women, according to the organization.
Women have cited that they run to achieve personal bests, socialize and improve overall health. Mary Wittenberg, CEO of Virgin Sport, says running appeals to women because “if you put the work in, you can do it. Completing the distance has become as big a goal as your time. That makes it far more accessible.”