Surge in Wisconsin Running

I had a chance to talk to Tom Held, who writes the Off the Couch blog for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, about the burgeoning popularity of running and silent sports in Wisconsin recently.

The number of marathons in Wisconsin has doubled from about 10 to over 20 in the last five years, Held said, and that doesn’t include half marathons, 10ks, or triathlons.

“Running has had a number of booms in the last 40 to 50 years,” he says. “Today, it’s not just the number of races but the overall turnout at the races that has taken off. It’s kind of a recession-proof endeavor.”

I told Held that the organizers of the Door County Half Marathon see the race as an opportunity to entice younger visitors to the peninsula. He pointed out that the demographics of races actually bulge in the 35 – 50 age group, which he considers an older group. I regretfully informed him that in Door County, that is young.

A runner himself, the 47-year-old Held said that his age group is as competitive as any right now.

“My group, the 45 – 50 range, is just a killer right now. I’m in the middle of the pack for my age, but I would win age groups 10 years younger at a lot of the races I’ve been in.”

One reason it’s so competitive is that running is a sport people come back to. “A lot of us ran in high school or college, got away from it as we pursued careers or family, and then returned when we have more disposable income and get settled.”

It makes for interesting demographics, and a great lifelong pursuit