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Ultras produce the most obsessive runners

The award for the event with the most obsessed runners goes to: the ultramarathon

Alissa St Laurent

A study conducted by Run Repeat has found out which types of runners are “the most obsessed” when it comes to their preferred races. The study looked at several race distances, from 5K up to the marathon and then ultra events, and although it may come as a surprise to many, ultrarunners are the most obsessed runners out there.

Growth of the ultramarathon

Run Repeat released two other studies earlier this year (“State of Running 2019” and “State of Ultra Running 2020“), and information compiled in research for those analyses was used for the Which Runners are the Most Obsessed? study. In the “State of Ultra Running,” Run Repeat found that ultramarathons have seen a 1,676 per cent increase in participation in the last 23 years.

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It was also found that  in 1996, only 14 per cent of runners participated in multiple ultras in a single year. Since then, that number has flipped, and as of  2018 (which is the last full year that this data was compiled across all distances), 41 per cent of ultrarunners compete in more than one race each year.

Photo: The Golden Ultra

Ultras vs. other distances

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With ultrarunning sitting at an all-time high for repeat participants, it beats runners in the 5K (33 per cent of whom run multiple 5Ks in a year), the 10K (16 per cent yearly return rate), the half-marathon (22 per cent) and the marathon (17 per cent). Marathons and 10K races have consistently sat at the low end of the spectrum of repeat participants, just as they do now.

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Reasons for this?

While it could just be that ultrarunners simply like their races more than runners identified in the other categories, there is another possible explanation for these results. Most marathon runners run one a year, as the study points out, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t racing other events.

Photo: Bruno Long/Golden Ultra

Some runners might race four times in a year, but never at the same distance, starting off with a 5K early in the season, then a 10K, then a half and finally building to a fall marathon. With this plan or similar race schedules (a 10K up to marathon build or a half-marathon training plan that uses a 5K and 10K as stepping stones to a 21K race), individuals may race several distances once in a year, but they’ve still raced on multiple occasions.

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On the other end of things, an ultramarathon is anything longer than 42K. This means that an ultrarunner could run several shorter ultra events (like a 50K) and build towards one bigger race (a 100-miler, for example), but each of these counts in the repeat column for ultramarathons.

Photo: Instagram / Laura Szanto/ The Golden Ultra

Another group that could be considered is track runners. Track athletes are incredibly obsessed with running, from sprinters to middle and longer distance runners. Adding track runners might complicate the study results, however, seeing as athletes can run many more races than longer road and trail races while still avoiding too much wear and tear on their bodies along the way. We just thought we should mention that track runners are incredibly obsessive, too.

With all of that said, we have to give credit where credit is due: congratulations, ultra community—you’re the most obsessed runners of us all.