Saturday's weather was beautiful, enticing many outside to take a walk, wash the car or run. Nearly 26,000 showed up for the Baltimore Running Festival and women outnumbered men in every race: the marathon was 62 percent women, the half-marathon was 59 percent, the 5K was 65 percent women and the relay was 62 percent. Less than 10 years ago, only 44 percent of the participants in the running festival were women.
So what accounts for the upsurge? Like so much else in society, it's social. Women, more so than men, run as a group. They chat on training jogs, they invite friends, cubicle-mates and relatives, and most of all, they support each other. Although there are certainly many fiercely competitive women out there aiming to beat a course time (and a bunch of the men, to boot), the majority of women are running not for race day glory but for personal achievement.
That could be to overcome personal health challenges, to honor a friend or relative's battles with chronic illness or simply to carve out some mental health time away from the pressures of family and profession. Having the camaraderie of a group of sole sisters makes training less of a slog and offers built-in support and encouragement when the going gets tough and the goal seems unreachable.
Even having just one person to beside you makes a difference, which is why many who have tried fitness activities in the past and failed to stick with it look for a personal trainer, whether the goal is simply weight loss or to run a 26-mile race. I make it a point to keep up with the latest fitness research and to understand the nutrition consequences of various ways to fuel your body for different activity levels.
It's fabulous to have a goal such as participation in a race—it gives you a deadline to prepare for and a community of others who've done it before and can share their successes and mistakes. Although running races are not everyone's cup of tea, more and more people are discovering that the simplest of human activities—walking and running—can provide both pleasure and satisfaction.
Congratulations to all the participants of the Baltimore Running Festival! Next time, I'll share some ideas on training for injury prevention.