The marathon is the media darling and the one we hear about most often, but it doesn’t even crack the top three in popularity. The 5K tops the list of the most popular road race distances, followed by the half marathon and the 10K. Let’s break it down a bit further and examine the magic of each race distance.

most popular race distances in the usa

The 5K (3.1 Mile) Race

The 5K is an accessible distance that attracts even the couch-bound would-be, could-be, should-be runners. Because the distance is relatively easy to prepare for, and the race is usually over in under an hour, it’s no wonder this race tops the list of most popular race distances in the United States with 8.3 million finishers.

 MENWOMEN  
Finishers 8.3M42%58%
Median Finish Time (2013)28:4634:53
Average Age33.6 years33 years
World Record12:37, Kenenisa Bekele14:11, Tirunesh Dibaba

The Half Marathon (13.1 Mile) Race

The half marathon is a test of endurance that requires a significant training commitment and rewards runners with a memorable race and a medal to wear around their necks. For many, the half marathon is the gateway distance to the increasingly popular 26.2-mile marathon.

 MENWOMEN  
Finishers 1.96M39%61%
Median Finish Time (2013)2:01:372:19:49
Average Age38.7 years35.6 years
World Record58:23, Zersenay Tadese1:05:09, Florence Jebet Kiplagat

The 10K (6.2 Mile) Race

The 10K isn’t a short race, but it’s not long either. This one requires both speed and endurance. For many runners, this one can be tricky in terms of training and race strategy. The 10K was once a favorite among recreational runners, but its popularity has taken a hit in recent years.

 MENWOMEN  
Finishers 1.48M44%56%
Median Finish Time (2013)56:001:04:47
Average Age38.4 years35.7 years
World Record26:44, Leonard Patrick Komon30:21, Paula Radcliffe

Bring Back the 5-Mile and 10-Mile Races!

I have nothing against the metric system or the odd 13.1 distance of the half marathon, but I’d love to see more 5 and 10-mile races. I like the challenge of the 5-mile distance. It’s a great goal to carry your 5K pace for 5 miles. And, the 10-mile race is classic distance that just begs for you to break those big round numbers.

What’s your favorite road race distance?

Thoughts?