The State of Ultra Running 2020


This study was made by RunRepeat.com and the International Association of Ultrarunner (IAU). This is an excerpts from the said study. You can read the whole article here.

In this study, we explore the trends in ultra running over the last 23 years. We have analyzed 5,010,730 results from 15,451 ultra running events, making this the largest study ever done on the sport. 

Key results

  • Female ultra runners are faster than male ultra runners at distances over 195 miles. The longer the distance the shorter the gender pace gap. In 5Ks men run 17.9% faster than women, at marathon distance the difference is just 11.1%, 100-mile races see the difference shrink to just .25%, and above 195 miles, women are actually 0.6% faster than men.
  • Participation has increased by 1676% in the last 23 years from 34,401 to 611,098 yearly participations and 345% in the last 10 years from 137,234 to 611,098. There have never been more ultra runners.
  • More ultra runners are competing in multiple events per year. In 1996, only 14% of runners participated in multiple races a year, now 41% of participants run more than one event per year. There is also a significant increase in the % of people who run 2 races a year, 17.2% (from 7.7% to 24.9%) and 3 races, 6.7% (from 2.8% to 9.5%). 
  • There have never been more women in ultrarunning. 23% of participants are female, compared to just 14% 23 years ago. 
  • Ultra runners have never been slower across distance, gender and age group. The average pace in 1996 was 11:35 min/mile, currently, it is 13:16 min/mile. The average runner has added 1:41 min/mile to their average pace, which is a slowdown of 15% since 1996. We don’t believe that individual runners have become slower, but that these distances are attracting less prepared runners now because the sport is more mainstream.
  • Runners improve their pace in their first 20 races, and then their pace stabilizes. From their first to their second race runners improve by 0:17 min/mile (2%) on average. But by their 20th they improve by 1:45 min/mile (12.3%).
  • The fastest ultra running nations are South Africa (average pace 10:36 min/mile), Sweden (11:56 min/mile), and Germany (12:01 min/mile). 
  • A record amount of people travel abroad for ultra running events. 10.3% of people travel abroad to run an ultra, for 5Ks this percentage is just 0.2%.
  • Runners in the longer distances have a better pace than the runners in the shorter distances for each age group. 
  • All age groups have a similar pace, around 14:40 min/mile. Which is unusual compared to the past and to other distances. 
  • The average age of ultra runners has decreased by 1 year in the last 10 years. It has changed from 43.3 years to 42.3 years. 
  • Ultra runners are getting more engaged – the average number of ultras per year has increased from 1.3 to 1.7 over the last 23 years.

Based from the “Key Results” of this study, I would like state my opinion and observations on the following:

  1. Participation has increased by 1,676% in the last 23 years from 34,401 to 611,098 yearly participation and 345%in the last 10 years from 137,234 to 611,098: Within this period in 2009, the Philippines had its contribution of an event in the ultramarathon community with the introduction of the First Edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race. I can safely say that this was the first Ultramarathon Race in the country in the 21st century (from the year 2000 and beyond). It is also the First “Point-to-Point” Ultramarathon Event in Asia. Through the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) and endorsement of PATAFA in 2010, the Philippines was the 6th ASIAN country to be accepted and sanctioned with the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU). PAU is also considered as the FIRST ASEAN Ultramarathon Federation to be a member of the IAU. The BDM 102 Ultra had “sparked” the popularity trend of ultramarathon events in the country as more events were organized by individual persons in almost all regions in the country in the coming years. Trail Ultras had also expanded in the country with runners trying to get ITRA points for possible entry to the UTMB Races. However, in this report/study, I can only see Malaysia as the only South East Asian country that is included among the Top 20 countries that has the most number of ultra marathon runners. I wonder why? With Malaysia’s population of 32.7 Million against the Philippines’ population of 109 Million? With more Ultra Races here in the Philippines than Malaysia? Maybe, this is a good start for somebody in the country to document and collate all the ultramarathon events and number of participants in every event in the country. I am not saying that we should be included in the Top 20 countries of Ultra Marathoners but we have the potential to be a future contender in the said list if we just cooperate and be united among ourselves.
  2. Local Ultra Marathon Runners Have The Tendency To Run More Ultra Races Every Year: With more Ultra Race Organizers “sprouting” all over the country, runners are enticed to join these races and taste what it is like to finish an ultramarathon race. But what I’ve have observed is the loose consideration and “comfort-oriented” prescribed cut-off times of these races. In Japan, the average cut-off time for their 100K Road Ultra is 14 hours and 8 hours for the 50K. For the BDM 102K, due to the heat and prevailing weather, the cut-off time is 18 hours and for my 50K PAU Events is 9 hours. For the PAU 100-Mile Road Races, it is pegged at 32 Hours. For longer distances, a PAU runner must be able to cover an average distance of 5 kilometers every hour. All these Cut-Off Times for my races are way below and slower than the cut-off times of Japan’s Road Race’s COTs. I can not speak well about the other Road Races in the country and their respective COTs. (Note: In almost all my Races at PAU and BR’s Events, I use myself as the “gauge” to determine a decent COT for the distance as I run my events first before making it as an Ultra Marathon Event for the Public)
  3. More of our Local Ultra Marathon Runners Are Satisfied With Just Finishing: This is the reason why our Average and Competitive Ultra Marathon Runners could barely finish the Races in International Events. This is a question of having so many Ultra Races but not having Quality Finishers with the goal to level-up or be at par in International Standards in Ultra Marathon. I consider myself as one of the “back-packers” and one of the last runners to finish within the COT in International Races but considering my age of almost 68 years old, I still consider myself as a good quality Ultra Marathon Runner. I have yet to see a Filipino Ultra Marathon Runner who will land as Podium Finisher in the Badwater 145-Mile Endurance Race (with due respect to those Pinoys who have finished this tough race); a Silver Buckle Awardee in the WSER 100-Mile; a Podium Finisher in the Spartathlon; Podium Finisher in the Leadville 100 & Hardrock 100, and a Top 10 in the UTMB.
  4. Fastest Countries In Average Pace: South Africa in 10:36 minutes per mile is the fastest; Sweden is second in 11:56 minutes per mile; Germany is third in 12:01 minutes per mile; and Malaysia in 20th rank in 15:55 minutes per mile. Based from the yearly results of the BDM 102K Ultra, I can safely say that the Average Finish Time is between 16-17 hours (with a COT of 18 hours). Using this as a baseline, an Average Local Runner who finished the BDM 102 is just a few seconds slower than the Malaysians. Positively speaking, we could be in the 21st or 22nd rank! (I can only speak for my PAU Races as I know that most of the other races have slower COTs).

For the meantime, these are the only observations and conclusions/opinions that I can think of as related to this study. I hope that in the next period of study (within 5 or 10 years), the Philippines will be in the List of Top 20 Countries in the Ultra Marathon Community. Let us strive more to be positive. And let us unite our efforts in this sports.

Official Logos Of PAU & IAU

 

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