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Why is running becoming such a trend?

The Oxford dictionary defines the word “trendy” as “very fashionable or up to date.” While that brings to mind the recent zumba world record, statistics for the masses suggest running is becoming very trendy. For instance, finishers of road races (including 5k, 10k, half marathons and marathons) doubled from 1990 to 2000 in the U.S. We are talking 8.6 million finishers in 2000 and a whopping estimate exceeding 13 million in 2012.

The graph below shows the marathon, half-marathon and New York marathon finishers, hitting record after record in recent years. This phenomenal graph is actually universal with similar trends observed for London, Tokyo, Berlin and Istanbul marathons- in particular an exponential growth of applicants to these races.

So, why is everyone on the run?
There are a number of constructive factors in play together:  

1.    Cost, access, flexibility factor: It is hard to argue the masses are faring much better financially the past few years, but as we just saw they’ve got the time for preparing and joining road races. But finances by itself does not make a big difference for a runner as the investment and start-up cost needed to pick up running can be as low as a pair of trainers. The access factor also matters when compared to alternatives. You do not need to go to a tennis court, golf course, swimming pool, gym classes or a football ground to be able to run. Flexibility with respect to your day job or schedule also helps when taking up running. You can run on your own, with your friends, in a running club, after work, at lunch time or early on week-ends.

2.    You’ll never be short of inspiration: Looking around us, we see fairly busy people and celebrities running for either exercise or to raise money for a charitable cause. I remember seeing David Cameron, Ed Balls, Nicholas Sarkozy, Al Gore, Gordon Ramsay, David Beckham and Richard Branson in papers either running for a cause or just out for a casual jog in recent years. The sport at a competitive level has not been short on heroes either. Since 2008, we’ve seen the world record improved more than once in the 100m, 200m, 800m and marathon distances. Not bad at all for some inspiration, is it?

3.    Outside world has never been more runner-friendly: Every big city is becoming more and more runner-friendly. Think of Istanbul for instance, the coast “sahil yolu” allows much wider pavements, which offer much safer running routes. Even kilometer-marks have been drawn in recent years, leaving you with no excuse to not run. In some cities, such as Tokyo where running is becoming more popular, run pits are even appearing, allowing you to take a shower, change and lock up your valuables. Similarly, twitter, the blogsphere and Google can bring you loads of training program information to help you reach your goals, prevent injuries, find new routes to run, discover running clubs, race info, you name it... I’m not even mentioning the amount of GPS running gadgets available, where you can record or analyze your splits, listening to music, monitor heart rate, etc.

4.    Initial conditions won’t matter: In economics, we know that initial conditions always matter…In running, they don’t. Thus, your talent, gender, past experience, age and physical appearance could influence your speed, but that does not really matter as each individual has his or her own target goals and can build on them. Building on progress has no limits whatsoever.

To me, the biggest factor that makes running trendy is that running is the only sport where everyone’s a winner.  

In no other sport, at the most challenging phase (say a marathon or an ultramarathon) do you have every competitor so happy and emotional. Unless you are in the top three, the marathon medal is identical for everyone, and it says “finisher” at the back. Even when you miss your target or fail to do a “personal best,” the feeling of accomplishment is priceless at the finish line. In my view, that’s why the world is on the run.

Olgay Buyukkayali is a recreational runner who is training for this third marathon.

0Comments -May/07/2012

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