The world’s largest amateur marathon market (and it’s not the U.S.)

For the first time since 1961, the United States is not the largest amateur marathon market as a new player emerges.

Start of the 2010 Tokyo Marathon.
Start of the 2010 Tokyo Marathon.

As the host country to two of the world’s largest marathons and world marathon majors (New York City and Chicago), it’s no surprise that the United States has led worldwide marathon participation statistics over the past half-century.

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There’s a bigger player now in marathon running.

According to Japan Running News, Japan is the world’s largest amateur marathon market, with the most finishers across all its marathons (with more than 1,000 participants) in 2015, surpassing the United States for the first time.

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This past year marked the first time since 1961 that the U.S. didn’t hold the top spot.

From 2006 to 2015, the estimated amount of worldwide marathon participants doubled to approximately two million, according to Japan Running News.

During this time the amount of marathon’s with 10,000-plus finishers in Japan has taken off while growth in the U.S. has been steady but its market share has declined.

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Much of that growth has been in unison with the uptick in participation at the Tokyo Marathon, a World Marathon Major, and one of the world’s largest 42.2K races (35,293 finishers per Japan Running News).

Japan is also expected to encourage more foreign-language entries to many of its marathons which could result in more tourists making the nation a popular destination for marathon seekers.