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Road running

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Road running in a U.S. Air Force marathon
People taking part in the Bristol Half Marathon
Athletes at the start of a 10-mile race in Gloucestershire in England, UK in 1990.
The Dam tot Damloop is a road race from Amsterdam to Zaandam in the Netherlands

Road running is the sport of running on a measured course over an established road. This differs from track and field on a regular track and cross country running over natural terrain.

These events are usually classified as long-distance according to athletics terminology, with races typically ranging from 5 kilometers to 42.2 kilometers in the marathon. They may involve large numbers of runners or wheelchair entrants. The four most common World Athletics recognized distances for road running events are 5K runs, 10K runs, half marathons and marathons.

Running on the road is an alternative surface to running on a trail, track, or treadmill. For many people looking to participate in running as an activity or sport, there are multiple opportunities that can be found on the road.

Road running is one of several forms of road racing, which also includes road bicycle racing and motor vehicle road racing.


Race courses are usually held on the streets of major cities and towns but can be on any road. World Athletics recognizes eleven common distances for road races that are eligible to be counted for records if they meet the eligibility criteria: 1 mile (1,609.3 m), 5 kilometres (3.1 mi), 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), 15 kilometres (9.3 mi), 10 miles (16.1 km), 20 kilometres (12.4 mi), half marathon (21.098 km or 13.1 mi), 25 kilometres (15.5 mi), 30 kilometres (19 mi), marathon (42.195 km or 26.2 mi), 35 kilometres (21.7 mi), 50 kilometres (31.1 mi), and 100 kilometres (62.1 mi). The 24-hour run is also recognized. Of these, the 5K, 10K, 25K, 30K, half marathon, marathon, and 100K are distances that are recognized for world records.[1]

Some major events have unique distances. The Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City, United States is 1.0 mile (1.6 km); the "Round the Bays" run in Auckland, New Zealand is 8.4 kilometres (5.2 mi); the Falmouth Road Race in Falmouth, Massachusetts is 7.1 miles (11.4 km); the Manchester Road Race in Manchester, Connecticut is 4.75 miles (7.64 km); "City to Surf" in Sydney, Australia is 14 kilometres (8.7 mi); Honolulu's "Great Aloha Run" is 8.15 miles (13.12 km); the "King Island Imperial 20"[2] is 32 kilometres (20 mi) long; and the "Charleston Distance Run" in Charleston, West Virginia is 15 miles (24 km).[3]


Most road running events are open to the general public. Participants are of varying running ability. It is not unusual for large events to have thousands of participants. Men and women compete side by side, and professional runners run in the same events as the average runner. In more prestigious races this is less likely to happen as there will be separate heats for men and women and for professional and non-professional athletes. In certain athletic events, first time amateurs are welcome to participate in the same event as members of running clubs and even current world-class champions.

This wide availability makes road racing extremely popular, and millions of people worldwide run thousands of races each year.[4] In the U.S., 18.1 million people registered for recreational road races in 2018.[5] While world record-holders can maintain paces of 4–5 minutes per mile (2.5 – 3 minutes per km), non-professional runners average around 10 min/mile (6 min/km). The majority of registrants run for personal reasons such as achievement and fitness rather than to compete, and many race courses accommodate this by staying open long enough for participants to jog or walk the distance.[6][7]


In order to record times for participants in road races, the race organiser typically pays a timing company to take times electronically, using a technology called radio-frequency identification (RFID). RFID technology is placed in either a disposable race bib, a shoe chip that is tied to shoelaces, or an ankle bracelet. RFID timing mats are then placed at the finish line of the race; when the runner crosses the line their time will be automatically recorded. This technology has developed over time to be the most efficient form of recording multiple athlete times.[8]



Road running is recognizable for its diverse features. Anyone is welcome to participate in road running whether it be for recreational activity or for the purpose of competition. Running is an activity that attracts people from all over the world and for any age. For example, many road racing events recognize finishers in an age group system which acts as a way to reward younger or older athletes who may not be able to compete with runners in a prime age.


Road races are often community-wide events that highlight or raise money for an issue or project. In the US, Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure is held nationwide to raise breast cancer awareness. This race is also run in Germany, Italy and Puerto Rico. Similarly, Race for Life holds races throughout the UK to raise money for Cancer Research UK. First person "race reports" frequently appear on the Dead Runners Society electronic mailing list. Dublin, Ireland's Women's Mini-Marathon is said to be the largest all-female event of its kind in the world.[9]

Motivation to be active[edit]

For many, competing in a local road race can be the motivation needed for individuals to pursue physical activity. In a study done by the bureau for labor statistics, road running ranked third in the most common form of sport and exercise activity for Americans.[10]

Physical benefit[edit]

Running on the roads has a different effect on the muscles in the human body opposed to running on the treadmill. Treadmills are made to assist running form due to the way the belt pushes your legs back enhancing movement. Running on the road through various conditions such as hills will do more to strengthen glutes, hamstrings, quads, and smaller muscles in the legs.[11] Additionally, running on the road can help improve bone density as your body breaks down from impact and then regenerates itself.[12]



As with any type of running, there is a risk of natural wear and tear on the human body due to the different movements required to run. The difference with road running compared to other forms is that for long periods of time, a runner will continuously be landing on a harder surface, which can lead to various overuse injuries. In any given year, on average 65–80 percent of runners experience some type of injury.[13] In order to decrease the risk of becoming injured from impact on the road, runners can change their shoes every 300–400 miles (500–650 km). This is important because high mileage shoes have poor shock absorption, and worn down treads which can cause pain.[14]


One danger in road running, as opposed to running in any other location, is that vehicles drive by regularly at high speeds. In a study[when?] by the company Road ID, it was found that on average 122,000 runners are hit by vehicles and end up in hospital each year. This figure does not include runners who are hit but do not end up in hospital.[15][better source needed] Runners can take precautions to decrease this risk, including: wearing reflective gear, wearing bright colors, running only during daylight, wearing a headlight, and running on the side of the road opposite traffic.[clarification needed][facing oncoming traffic?]


At first running can seem like a very cheap activity that anyone can partake in. But there are some expenses. For one, replacing running shoes every 400–500 miles (650–800 km).[14][It was 300 to 400 miles earlier in the article.] Also, road race entry fees can be expensive because they have to cover the costs incurred by the race organizer. The entry fee for some big city marathons can be 150 to 300 dollars.[16]

Governing body and international organizations[edit]

The international governing body for road racing is World Athletics (formerly IAAF). World Athletics aims to set the standards for competitions by ensuring that all participants are drug-free and that all equipment used is legal.[17] World Athletics measures each race course to give it an World Athletics certification rating. Once a race course is certified, the course can be counted for different records or rankings.[18]

National governing bodies which are affiliated to World Athletics are responsible for road races held in their country. Of the thousands of road races held each year, 238 races, including some premier ones, are members of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS). Many race organizers (or the running clubs which conduct the races) are members of the Road Runners Club of America. In addition, the USA Track & Field plays a role in selecting representatives for certain international competitions under the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.

Competitors from around the world participate in what are dubbed the "elite" races for cash prizes. Elite level road running series include the World Marathon Majors, the Great Run series, and IAAF Road Race Label Events.

Main competitions[edit]

Marathon and half marathon events
Race-walking events

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "World Records". World Athletics. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  2. ^ "King Island Imperial 20 - March 2008". Archived from the original on 18 July 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
  3. ^ Schuckies, Erica (22 December 2016). "The Biggest Running Races in the U.S." ACTIVE. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  4. ^ Andersen, Jens Jakob (3 November 2023). "The State of Running 2019". RunRepeat. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  5. ^ "Running USA Releases 2019 U.S. Running Trends Report". Running USA. March 19, 2019. Archived from the original on Feb 26, 2020. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  6. ^ Hudson, Hailey (1 August 2019). "What's the Average Running Speed and How Can You Improve Yours?". Runner's World. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  7. ^ Abbate, Emily (12 February 2020). "First Time Training for a Marathon? Brush Up on These Basics". Runner's World. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Chip Timing vs Clock Gun Time: What's the difference?". RFID Insider. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  9. ^ "About The Women's Mini Marathon". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  10. ^ "Sports and exercise among Americans : The Economics Daily: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics". www.bls.gov. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  11. ^ Mateo, Ashley (13 September 2019). "How Does Running on a Treadmill Compare to Running Outside?". Runner's World. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  12. ^ "Why Trail Running is the Best Exercise for Your Health". Core Running. 11 February 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  13. ^ Lobby, Mackenzie (18 March 2013). "Avoid a Running Injury With the 10 Percent Rule". ACTIVE. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  14. ^ a b "5 Signs You Need New Running Shoes". Verywell Fit. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  15. ^ "122,000 runners get hit by cars annually". Law Offices of Fred D. Crawford, IV. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  16. ^ Luff, Christine. "Total Costs of Signing Up for a Running Race". Verywell Fit. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  17. ^ "Track and Field: International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)". www.ducksters.com. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Certified road events". World Athletics. Retrieved 29 November 2019.

External links[edit]