What Strava Tells Us About the State of Running in 2018
Turkey Trots are huge and runners like beer
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This week, Strava, the activity-sharing network favored by endurance athletes and those who stalk them, released its annual “Year in Sport” report, which offers insights on data collected from over 36 million users in 195 countries. Even though Strava is looking to broaden its reach—for better or worse, roller skiers and kitesurfers can now upload their activities on the app—runners and cyclists continue to dominate.
So what does the data reveal about the tortured psyches of those who voluntarily log thousands of miles every year? Not much, I hope. Because the last thing we need is another social network that can provide access to psychological profiles of millions of users. Instead, Strava’s annual report tells us stuff like what days of the year are most popular for running, and what post-workout foods people like to brag about. Perhaps we are already living in an age where such seemingly innocent information can be used to nefarious ends, but, for now, let’s pretend it’s all in good fun.
Here, I’ve cherry-picked a few of the more interesting points from Strava’s report, which reflects data from last September through August of this year. Enjoy.
Thanksgiving Is the Biggest Running Day in the U.S.
It will probably come as no surprise that, worldwide, the most popular day to go for a run typically falls on a weekend. Last year, for instance, a record 766,100 Strava users logged miles on Saturday, September 16.
In the United States, however, the most popular day for running is Thanksgiving; in 2017, 169,900 Americans uploaded a run on Strava on November 23. Strava’s data suggests an obvious explanation for the spike: the proliferation of the Turkey Trot. Last year, the app recorded 10,404 Turkey Trot races nationwide.
There’s a Surprising Gender Divide
One of the more interesting revelations was the stark discrepancy between men’s and women’s most popular activities on Strava. Among women, running won by a wide margin, with 90 million uploads on the app over the past year. At 50 million uploads, cycling was a distant second. Meanwhile, among men, the trend was reversed: cycling occupied the top spot with 382 million uploads, while running lagged far behind with 234 million.
Shameless hot take: while pro running still has its own issues to resolve when it comes to equality between male and female athletes, the situation is arguably much worse in professional cycling. If we can make the generalization that Strava users represent a more competitive subset of amateur athletes, it’s perhaps not surprising that more women prefer running.
Runners Like Beer, Riders Prefer Coffee
Strava users have the option of adding a title to their activities when recording them in the app—e.g.: “a.m. Miles With Nasty Ned,” or “Chicago Marathon 2018 Requiem for My Toenails.”
Needless to say, food and drink are frequent themes when athletes decide to label their workouts, races, or easy runs. In the report, Strava added a graph to reflect the number of times coffee and beer were mentioned in activity titles among cyclists and runners. For the former group, coffee showed up a record 491,000 times, while runners most frequently mentioned beer (306,000). I have no idea what to make of this, but we do know that runners and coffee have a complex, sometimes fraught, relationship.
Everyone Loves the Running Emoji
“When the right words are hard to come by, emoji get right to the point,” Strava states in its report. May God help us if that’s true.
But, since you were surely wondering, I can confirm that the “running” emoji was the most widely used emoji in every U.S. state except Florida (biking emoji), North Dakota (snowflake), Wyoming (smiling face with sunglasses) and Vermont (black heart).
So, if you ever meet a Strava user from Vermont, be sure to give them a hug.
American Women Are Racing More than Men
In terms of percentage, American women beat out American men when it came to race participation. In the past year, 13.1 percent of U.S. women uploaded a race on Strava, compared to 12.7 percent among men. It’s a trend that’s corroborated by Running USA’s annual road race participation report, which noted that, in 2017, around 59 percent of road race participants were women.
It’s also noteworthy that, while percentage of race participation increased for both sexes, for American women the increase was a dramatic 28.1 percent from the last annual Strava report. (The increase for American men was 17.2 percent.) This increase came during a 12-month period in which Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years, and Des Linden the first to win Boston in 33 years. All just a coincidence, surely.