Because endurance exercise causes release of mediators and growth factors active on the bone marrow, we asked whether it might affect circulating hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) in amateur runners [n = 16, age: 41.8 +/- 13.5 (SD) yr, training: 93.8 +/- 31.8 km/wk] compared with sedentary controls (n = 9, age: 39.4 +/- 10.2 yr). HPCs, plasma cortisol, interleukin (IL)-6, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), and the growth factor fms-like tyrosine kinase-3 (flt3)-ligand were measured at rest and after a marathon (M; n = 8) or half-marathon (HM; n = 8). Circulating HPC counts (i.e., CD34(+) cells and their subpopulations) were three- to fourfold higher in runners than in controls at baseline. They were unaffected by HM or M acutely but decreased the morning postrace. Baseline cortisol, flt3-ligand, IL-6, and G-CSF levels were similar in runners and controls. IL-6 and G-CSF increased to higher levels after M compared with HM, whereas cortisol and flt3-ligand increased similarly postrace. Our data suggest that increased HPCs reflect an adaptation response to recurrent, exercise-associated release of neutrophils and stress and inflammatory mediators, indicating modulation of bone marrow activity by habitual running.