May 1, 2015

As a business professional and a runner, I have long been fascinated by the state of the running market.   One of the most iconic races in our country is the Boston Marathon, where we recently represented our client, Hyland’s.


Having been behind the scenes at the past three Boston Marathon expos, I continue to be amazed by the sheer number of people who are taking to the sport. Although a marathon typically pulls smaller numbers than a 5k, the volume of runners and spectators in Boston was astonishing. I can see why economists continue to claim that the running market is on fire. 


According to the Running USA Annual Marathon Report, there were 541,000 marathon finishers in 2013 with more than 1,100 races in the United States offering the 26.2 experience. Honestly, it felt like there were at least a couple hundred thousand in Boston, swarming the impressive Expo for the top deals from leading road running brands such as Brooks and Asics. 

(Photo credit: Hyland's)


Beyond the marathon (of which I am proud to add my own 2014 Thunder Road finish to the stats) the growth of the half marathon is staggering. In 2013 there was a record 2 million finishers making the half-marathon the fastest growing distance race in the States. Holding the top spot for runners is the ever-popular 5k, which had 6.2 million finishers in 2012. I suspect the number is even higher for 5k finishes in 2013 since there are at least two 5ks per weekend in almost every town across America. To put it all in perspective, in 2012 there were 15,534,000 finishers of US running events.


All that running adds up to A LOT of gear. The increase in popularity has caused the running market to flourish, and we see that truth reflected in the popularity of our running-based clients. Shoes are the core of the running industry, and the farther you go, the more frequently you need to replace your shoes. I typically swap mine out every 300 – 400 miles. Consider someone who runs about 25 miles a week and competes in one half-marathon every 3 months – that equates to four pairs of shoes a year and an investment of about $500 annually in footwear alone!  And that’s just one piece of gear – athletic brands across the globe continue to produce innovative new running products, from compression sleeves to GPS watches, that can help us run faster, smarter, and longer.


Business aside, I am more fascinated by the stories that accompany runners. Regardless of what distance you run, running is about community.  The symbol of the Boston Marathon is, for good reason, the elusive Unicorn.


Joining me in Boston was Hyland’s athlete, Mike Ehredt who has twice run across the country to honor fallen Soldiers.  In the airport I had this feeling that I was on my way to experience something very special in Boston. There are so many runners out there who dedicate their strides into something so powerful, beyond themselves.  For example, I recently learned of a man so grief-stricken by his father’s death that he completely isolated himself and became extremely unhealthy, physically and mentally.


He finally dragged himself up by turning to his steps, moving one foot in front of the other.  Dedicating himself to 923 consecutive days of running, to reflect the 9/23 date he lost his Dad, he lost 100 pounds and now runs ultra marathons.  This man is one of many who use running as a means to an end, a way to simply achieve greatness. In Boston, the elusive Unicorn represents the unattainable.  Making the pilgrimage to Boylston Street is about determining, exactly in your own way, what this means and each runner comes out as a hero.

 (Photo credit: Hyland's)

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