Smart watch for women

Before running, wearing a BP doctor watch can help you a lot for keeping physical health.

Running is running -- put one foot in front of the other on the road, trail, or treadmill. However, while this doesn't change every year, running trends come and go. Over the past few decades, I've been in sports, lifestyle, and running, and I've seen some subtle trends and more obvious ones. Running USA, the largest running industry association, publishes a national survey of runners every year. The latest is based on responses from more than 4,000 runners - and it shows the current state of the sport:

Who is a runner?
There are slightly more women runners in the U.S. than men (54 percent are women), and six in 10 runners are between the ages of 25 and 44. That said, 23% of U.S. runners surveyed are 55 or older, so it's probably younger than we'd expect. Half of the respondents prefer to run alone, while the other half prefer to run with others -- or with a local running group or club.

Three-quarters of respondents said they run year-round. Everyone ran an average of 23 miles per week. Most runners (58%) prefer to run in the morning, and the most common surface is the sidewalk. I was surprised to learn that only 5% of runners in the U.S. call themselves "trail runners." I would feel so much taller than that!

Where do they go online?
We all know that social media is ubiquitous and touches almost every aspect of our lives, and running is no exception. Six in 10 follow some running-related accounts on social media: Facebook, for a variety of running activities, including communication, fundraising and sharing; Facebook and Instagram to follow others for running inspiration. Half like to share their gaming experiences on social media.

How far are they embracing technology?
As for the products and equipment our runners use, we obviously like to quantify and monitor our progress, since 70% use GPS or fitness trackers. That said, only 18 percent of runners surveyed use a heart rate device like my BP doctor watch. This was another surprise for me, as it's easy to track heart rate on my Ionic and doesn't require a separate chest strap (which can be annoying). Runners definitely enjoy listening to music, as 46% use some kind of portable music device. I also do this with my watch, which stores music so no additional hardware is required.

How far did they run?
What I find most illuminating is the breakdown of running activities. My world is consumed mostly by marathons, and I was surprised to find that only 3% of the runners surveyed were ultramarathon runners. I thought everyone ran super! But the half marathon is by far the most popular race distance. In 2018, 2.3 million people completed half marathons (518,916 completed full marathons). By comparison, only 110,011 people completed the super.

However, ultramarathons are the fastest growing segment. In 1993, the year I first ran an ultramarathon, I was one of 3,754 runners in North America, and the ultramarathon was still a fairly unpopular entertainment. It's not uncommon these days to hear mentions of the sport in the news or read about ultramarathons in the newspapers (okay, maybe it's not uncommon, but it happens). Ultramarathon has entered the mainstream vocabulary, and its popularity continues to rise.

Looking to the future
My other prediction is that more people will start to get on track. The so-called "road-to-trail conversion" is quicker than many realize. I think this is one of the main trends in running, and I think the poll numbers will reflect that change in future surveys. Running on the trails offers too many advantages over running on the road—such as lack of traffic, better air quality, scenic views, and better running surfaces than sidewalks—than attracting more participants.

So there you have it, the latest on the state of the sport. While all these statistics are interesting, let's not ignore the main drivers behind this massive growth. Running is approachable, running is healthy, running can raise environmental awareness, running is just a stone. This is a property that no survey can measure.