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NYC Marathon: The Demographics Of Running

More women and older runners are entering the marathon.

By Leila Hmaidan     |     Nov. 3, 2019

The New York City Marathon has been run 49 times. Since its inception, the range of people who enter the race has changed dramatically from what was once a small group of young men.

The first New York City Marathon was held on September 13, 1970, with 127 entrants and 54 finishers. The finishers were all male, 85% of them between the ages of 30-39. Now, 49 years later, the demographics of runners have shifted dramatically in both gender and age.

The all-male marathon of 1970 was the result of a ban by the Amateur Athletic Union on women’s participation in road races. At the time, some people had concerns that marathon running would be harmful to a woman’s health.

In 1970, records indicate that one woman managed to start the race but was not recorded as a finisher on the New York Road Runners website. It was not until 1972 that the Amateur Athletic Union permitted women to begin taking part in the New York City Marathon. Six years later, 769 females finished the race, of which 45% were between the ages of 20-29.

The uptick in female runners was not the only trend witnessed after their participation opened up. The ratio between male and female runners began to shrink. In 1978, the ratio of male to female runners was 1:10. In 2018, the ratio was 1:1.4.

Another trend seen over the years is a change in the age of runners. Since 1998, a steady increase in finishers over the age of 60 began to take place. Between 2008 and 2018, there was a notable increase in the number of finishers who were over the age of 80.