For all of you who think a marathon is just not quite far enough then here (State of Ultra Running 2020) is a new study looking at developments and findings in that market. Here are some of the key findings and a few of them seem highly controversial at first sight:
- Female ultra runners are faster than male ultra runners at distances over 195 miles. The average female pace is 17:19 min/mile, which is 0.6% faster than the average male pace of 17:25 min/mile.
- Participation has increased by 345% in the last 10 years from 137,234 to 611,098, and 17.8 times over the last 23 years (from 34,401 to 611,098 runners). There have never been more ultra runners.
- Women are as fast as men in long-distance ultras. The longer the distance the shorter the gender pace gap. In 5Ks men run 17.9% faster than women but on a 100-miler the difference is just 0.25%.
- 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.
Source: State of Ultra Running 2020