Fun Runs Draw More Runners Than Traditional Races

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It seems like almost every time I log on to Facebook, someone is posting photos of them holding a beer and smiling a sweaty, mud-caked grin at the finish line of a mud run, obstacle course run, Color Run, or other fun run. And a recent report by Running USA confirms my suspicions: These types of runs have experienced explosive growth.

Since 2009 the number of estimated finishers in the U.S. of non-traditional runs has grown from the low six figures to 4 million in 2013—a 40-fold increase in five years. In fact, 2013 was the first year that more people completed these types of runs than the more traditional half-marathons and marathons combined.

If you've ever participated in these races, you may think you know why the popularity is rising: They’re fun! (And there's beer.) But the real reason may come down to our social lives—IRL and online. A survey by ACTIVE.com revealed that getting to hang out with friends was one of the top motivators for participation, and most of people had found out about the events via social media and friends.

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Think about how many friends you see uploading pics on Facebook, checking into a race on Foursquare, or posting a filtered photo on Instagram of these runs. Warrior Dash’s race director Munirah McNeely told Running USA, “I think that’s really allowed for growth to occur as quickly as it has.” To put it in perspective, Tough Mudder has more than 3.9 million likes on Facebook, while Running USA says the most likes they could find for a traditional event or series was Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Series, which now has 727,000.

What do you think about this report? Do you think this growth will sustain itself? Have you completed one of these non-traditional running events? Did you find out about it on social media? Tweet at us @Shape_Magazine and tell us what you think!

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