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HomeRunningUltrarunning Development within the U.S. By a Geographic Lens – iRunFar

Ultrarunning Development within the U.S. By a Geographic Lens – iRunFar


Ultrarunning and path working have skilled explosive progress over the previous a number of a long time. In america alone, this proliferation has attracted new audiences and folks from each nook of the nation and past. This sample is mirrored globally as properly.

The ultrarunning and path working group remains to be comparatively small, and also you see comparable faces at main occasions. With the commercialization of sure occasions and qualifiers attracting important consideration and promoting out rapidly, some races have ballooned from native occasions to nationwide and worldwide spectacles.

When wanting by way of information obtainable on ultramarathon statistics and previous articles, many present progress graphs up and to the correct. It’s evident that ultrarunning is rising, however what does that basically imply? How is it rising, and the place is it rising?

As somebody who has been touring america over the previous yr and attending path races in several states, I’m focused on higher understanding the gang that these occasions appeal to. At a given path race, you’re certain to strike up a dialog with somebody on the expo or as you shuffle down the path. The laid-back nature of those occasions lends itself to dialog, and also you study loads — possibly just a little an excessive amount of — about some people.

It’s at all times fascinating to me the place an individual has traveled from for a selected occasion. Seldom is it the identical location, and the geographic variance lends itself to studying about different cities and cities scattered throughout the nation.

On this article, I purpose to visualise the geographic attain of ultrarunning and path working in america and the way they unify filth surfers from across the nation and past.

Let’s begin by some of the high-profile ultras within the U.S., Javelina 100 Mile, and the way it has grown through the years to draw misfits from across the nation. Right here, we visualize that geographic progress:

The expansion is mesmerizing. From a small-time occasion that used to achieve a handful of people, it has grown right into a nationwide occasion that brings in individuals from most corners of the nation and past. I purpose to discover this idea additional on this article: What does a geographic lens reveal about ultrarunning within the U.S.?

Strategies and Notes

Notes on the information:

  • Geographic constraint: Races within the U.S.
  • Time constraint: Races from 2000 to 2023.
  • Race dimension constraint: Races with a minimum of 10 finishers.
  • Participant constraint: Races solely have particular person information for finishers, not all members.

These constraints shall be on all information referenced within the article. For mapping location information, I used the Google Maps Geocoding API to retrieve latitude and longitude coordinates. All runner information comes from the DUV Ultramarathon Statistics Database.

A few final notes earlier than we dig in:

  • As we are going to see, the races featured on this article characterize an total pattern within the growth of U.S. ultrarunning and path working.
  • We need to make clear on this article that we’re inspecting geographic progress in U.S. ultrarunning and path working solely. To do that, we use information on the variety of occasions, their geographic places, and the evolution of the geographies from which members hail. There are different methods by which the expansion of those sports activities can and have been measured, akin to the general variety of members throughout the occasions, that can provide us different views on progress.

General Ultramarathon Development in america

This text examines the expansion of ultrarunning within the U.S. by way of a geographical lens. Utilizing the geocoded race and participant information, we are able to pinpoint and map the place ultrarunning exercise happens across the nation. I’ll begin by wanting on the progress of ultrarunning from a excessive stage after which dive into some race-specific visualizations.

Ultrarunning is on the rise. Many individuals have in all probability seen a plot just like the one beneath. This graph reveals the variety of extremely occasions within the U.S. through the years. Since 2000, the variety of races in our dataset has grown from 233 to 2033, a 772% enhance.

Number of ultramarathons in the U.S. over time

Variety of ultramarathons within the U.S. over time.

Here’s what that progress has appeared like throughout the nation. Ultrarunning has gone from a reasonably inconspicuous sport to being discovered throughout all states.

Location of all ultramarathons in the US in 2000

Location of all ultramarathons in the U.S. in 2023

 

Drilling down into the extremely scene a bit extra, it’s fascinating to see how the entry-level extremely distance, 50 kilometers, has grown in comparison with essentially the most famend extremely distance, 100 miles. The 50k has at all times been the preferred of the extremely distances with the bottom barrier to entry, and, apart from some brutal 50ks just like the Speedgoat 50k, extra manageable to complete.

Since 2000, the variety of 50k races in our dataset has grown from 89 to 760, a 753% enhance.

50ks in the U.S. over time

This progress in 50k occasions is sort of just like the expansion in all occasions, and we are able to see that a variety of 50k occasions now exists throughout the county.

50k races in the U.S. - 2000

50k races in the U.S. - 2023

Analyzing 100-mile occasions over time, we see a progress from 19 occasions to 160, a 742% enhance. The share enhance within the 100-mile distance aligns with 50ks, however the absolute variety of 100-mile races stays considerably much less.

100 mile races in the U.S. over timeTaking a look at a geographic distribution of 100-mile occasions, we are able to see they’re fairly spaced out. In 2000, there was seldom multiple per state, and in 2023, whereas extra widespread, they’re nonetheless far more spaced out than the 50k graph.

100 mile races in the U.S. - 2000

100 mile races in the U.S. - 2023

Right here is an animation of how 100-mile races have unfold over time:

100 mile races in the U.S. over time

Participant Journey to Varied Ultramarathons in america

Ultras have grown through the years with extra choices for shorter and longer distances. If you wish to discover a race of a selected kind comparatively near the place you reside, this has turn into extra possible. Some exceptions exist, akin to for those who dwell in a comparatively ultra-dead zone. (Sorry, North Dakota.) Sure distances, such because the 50k, have extra choices to select from, whereas much less frequent occasions like 100 milers will make you search a bit tougher. It makes intuitive sense that the extra excessive or particular an occasion is, the extra seemingly it’s you will have to journey additional to compete in it.

For instance, let’s take a look at the Cocodona 250 Mile. It’s the solely 250-mile race within the U.S. within the DUV Ultramarathon Statistics dataset and one of some 200-plus-mile races nationwide. Having grown to nationwide prominence up to now few years, persons are prepared to journey from throughout the nation to run from Black Canyon Metropolis to Flagstaff, Arizona.

Pulling location information for finishers on the occasion permits us to visualise journey to the 2023 Cocodona 250 Mile. As you’ll be able to see, individuals journey from many components of the nation, with 35 states and provinces represented and a median journey distance of over 900 miles.

The situation displays that entered by the participant when signing up for a selected occasion.

Cocodona 250 mile - particpant location 2023

Occupied with the Cocodona 250 Mile made me inquisitive about what will increase one’s propensity to journey lengthy distances to occasions. Because of the data-intensive nature of geocaching each finisher’s location, I selected a choose handful of occasions to look at in additional element. To look at traits by distance, I carried out a small evaluation utilizing the highest 10 hottest 50k races and 100-mile races within the dataset whereas excluding UTMB World Collection races, as they didn’t embody participant location info.

The 2 metrics I centered on had been same-state % — the % of members whose location was in the identical state because the race, and common journey distance — the common distance in miles from a participant’s location to the occasion.

These metrics for 2023 race information reveal some fascinating traits. On common, 50k races had a same-state proportion of 66.5%, whereas 100-mile races had a a lot decrease same-state proportion of 34.5%. The common journey distance to 50k races was 266 miles in comparison with that of 589 miles for 100-mile races. These two metrics are practically double for the 100-mile versus 50k, displaying a willingness of members to journey longer distances for longer-distance occasions.

Here’s a visualization of one of many extra native 50k occasions, the Approach Too Cool 50k in Cool, California.

Way Too Cool 50k - particpant location over time

As you’ll be able to see, there isn’t a lot variation in the place individuals journey from yr to yr. It’s a predominantly California occasion, with 80 to 90% of members from throughout the state.

Alternatively, let’s take a look at one of many extra standard 100-mile occasions, the Javelina 100 Mile, close to Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Travel to Javelina 100 Mile

The Javelina 100 Mile began out as an occasion with extra geographical attain resulting from the truth that 100-mile occasions have higher attain. Through the years, the expansion throughout the nation has been far more pronounced, with an growing quantity of members touring from throughout many states — and internationally — to attend the race.

Journey traits like this may be seen throughout the 100-mile distance. Let’s take a look at a pair extra examples.

Bighorn 100 Mile - particpant location over time

Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile - particpant location over time

These three 100-mile occasions have attracted an more and more big selection of oldsters nationwide. All three occasions are Western States 100 qualifiers and among the many hottest races at their distance. Over time, because the curiosity within the 100-mile distance has grown, these occasions have grown together with it, spreading their attain to extra states and provinces. The 2023 race view reveals races with important geographic attain, with all occasions promoting out that yr. Will these races proceed to increase geographically within the years to come back?

Wanting on the Western States 100, we see a 100-mile race that has constantly been standard nationwide. Since 2003, the Western States 100 has constantly attracted individuals from greater than 40 states and provinces, touring a median distance of over 900 miles. These numbers have barely elevated through the years because the race continues to achieve prominence on the worldwide stage, however it’s onerous for it to turn into far more standard than it already is.

Western States 100 Mile - particpant location over time

Ultramarathon Participant Propensity to Journey

Extremely-distance occasions have grown throughout the board in recent times. Shorter distance occasions, such because the 50k, and longer distance occasions, like 100-mile races, have each skilled this progress. Longer distance occasions stay extra scarce and geographically unfold out. This geographic dispersal and certain different elements end in members being prepared to journey additional distances to those extra distinctive occasions.

I’m nonetheless finalizing my definition of participant propensity to journey (PPT), however it could seemingly embody the next elements:

  1. Uniqueness of race: If a race distance is extra distinctive, members will journey additional to race that distance.
  2. Qualifying races: The emergence of qualifying races for prestigious races makes these helpful in their very own proper.
  3. Location attraction: Ultras are sometimes held in a few of the nation’s most lovely locations and are a very good excuse to take an lively trip.
  4. On-line presence: Social media and livestreams of the motion because it takes place construct hype round occasions, bringing in additional people the next yr.

Ultrarunning’s progress throughout the U.S. through the years is fascinating to take a look at, and I’m certain it is going to proceed to be within the years to come back. Through the use of a geographic lens to look at extremely progress over time, I hope I’ve offered a novel perspective on the game’s progress.

Name for Feedback

  • What conjures up you to run sure occasions?
  • What makes you prepared to journey additional to a race?
  • What different occasions would you prefer to see analyzed? (We’ll have a look into three extra nominees.)



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