Track & Field/Running among premier “women’s sports,” study reveals


Jill Geer
Director of Communications
USA Track & Field
317-261-0478 x360

BOSTON - USA Track & Field on Saturday released a study revealing the status of track & field/running as one of the premier "women's" sports, as well as factors that may keep it from being recognized as such.

The study, conducted by Yi Analytics of New Haven, Conn., details the economic, media and participatory successes that women have had in Track & Field/Running.

"This study demonstrates what we have known and said for years: track & field and running is among the most elite of any women's sport, by any measure," said USATF CEO Craig Masback. "That people look at the sport irrespective of gender is a tribute to what is a gender- and color-blind sport, but that success has resulted in track not getting its due as a 'women's' sport."

The success of track as a women's sport is clear: women first began participating in the 19th century, were first added to the Olympic program in the 1920s, and have been a key part of the World Championship, Olympic programs, and USATF and IAAF professional circuits. Track also has produced iconic female American sports figures over the years, particularly from its African-American participatory base. Jackie Joyner-Kersee was named by SI for Women as the greatest female athlete in history, while other iconic figures in women's sport include Babe Didriksen, Wilma Rudolph, Joan Benoit Samelson, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Marion Jones and Stacy Dragila.

Not only are female athletes high-profile, they are well-paid. Plainly put, women make more money in professional track & field and running than almost any other sport. Since the inception of authorized prize and appearance money in the sport of Track in the 1980s, women have always received equal prize money, as reported by the IAAF. In 2003, women earned approximately $20 million in reported prize money in Track. This figure does not include prize money from events that did not report, endorsement income from shoe/apparel companies or appearance fees, which are said to be as high as $1,000,000 for a single race in the case of marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe.

Participation numbers also tell a powerful story. Track features the highest participation numbers of any sport at the junior high, high school, college, and adult/post-college levels. At the high school level, girl's track/cross country is the #1 participatory sport, with participation growing 42% over the last 15 years, compared to an increase of 25% among boys high school track/cross country in the same period. At the collegiate level, women's track/cross country also is #1. Among adults, close to 50% of America's 30 million runners are women, including among the 10 million Americans who run more than 100 times per year and the 8 million who registered and ran in road races in 2004.

For the full text of the Yi Analytics study, CLICK HERE.