Historical analysis of participation in 161 km ultramarathons in North America

Int J Hist Sport. 2010;27(11):1877-91. doi: 10.1080/09523367.2010.494385.


Participation trends in 100 m (161 km) ultramarathon running competitions in North America were examined from race results from 1977 through 2008. A total of 32, 352 finishes accounted for by 9815 unique individuals were identified. The annual number of races and number of finishes increased exponentially over the study period. This growth in number of finishes occurred through a combination of (1) an increase in participation among runners >40 years of age from less than 40% of the finishes prior to the mid-1980s to 65-70% of the finishes since 1996, (2) a growth (p < 0.0001) in participation among women from virtually none in the late 1970s to nearly 20% since 2004, and (3) an increase in the average annual number of races completed by each individual to 1.3. While there has been considerable growth in participation, the 161 km ultramarathon continues to attract a relatively small number of participants compared with running races of shorter distances.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Men's Health* / ethnology
  • Men's Health* / history
  • North America / ethnology
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Running* / education
  • Running* / history
  • Running* / physiology
  • Running* / psychology
  • Women's Health* / ethnology
  • Women's Health* / history