Runners Leading the Pack

Runners Leading the Pack

Running event participation in Australia leading the pack

Posted on 02.07.2019

In June 2019, and the IAAF released the first mapping of global running participation. The analysis covered 107.9 million race results from more than 70,000 events between 1986 to 2018. Key conclusions from an analysis of global data were:

  • Global event participation is experiencing a decline with participation having decreased by 13% since 2016, where it peaked at 9.1 million runners. Growth however continues in Asia
  • Runners have never been slower, particularly male runners. In1986 the average finish time was 3:52:35, whereas today it’s 4:32:49 – a slowdown of 40 minutes and 14 seconds
  • Runners, on average, have never been older aging from an average of 35.2 years in 1986 to 39.3 years in 2018
  • On average, Spain has the fastest recreational runners over the marathon distance, whilst Russia tops the half marathon, Switzerland heads the 10km distance and Ukraine the 5km
  • For the first time in history, there are more female than male runners. In 2018, 50.24% of runners were female
  • Traveling to race has never been more popular
  • The motives for participating in running appear to be changing from being achievement-focused to being phycological, health and socially focused

Jens Jakob Andersen, Founder of kindly extracted some further insights from analysing the Australian data for Athletics Australia.

These insights include:

  • Generally, across all distances (5km, 10km half marathon, marathon), Australia ranks 25th in the World in terms of average finishing times
  • Over the 10km distance, Australia ranks 102nd – on average, the slowest finishing times over that distance in the Western World

The two stats above suggest that more Australians of all ages and abilities are participating in running events, which has contributed to these trends. Overall, this can be seen as a positive because it suggests that running events are attracting more recreational participants than in the past.

  • Across all distances, the average finishing time for Australian runners has increased over the past 10 years, with increases as follows:
    • Marathon 18:51
    • Half marathon 9:24
    • 10k 3:04
    • 5k 58 seconds
  • In general, running has never been more popular in Australia with participation up 9% in 2018. In contrast, regions such as North American and Europe have started to see a decline in participation

Independent research conducted by Athletics Australia shows that over 3 million Australians participate in recreational running – figures which are supported by Sport Australia’s AusPlay data.

  • Overall, Australia has the 5th highest proportion of female runners in the world with 52% of participants being female
  • The figures below show the percentage of finishers who are female across the different distances:
    • Marathon 31.70%
    • Half marathon 48.13%
    • 10km 55.55%
    • 5km 65.90%

To view the full global report, visit





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