Here at Half Marathon Guide, we read a lot of running content. We meet a lot of people who run and talk with a lot of people who work in the running industry. We talk to them often about running trends.
We also read a lot of press releases and run a lot of races.
From thousands of hours we invest into the running industry, we see a lot of the early movements in the industry that get us excited for the evolution in our reading, running, and racing in the year ahead.
Based on everything we’re seeing, here’s the biggest running trends you can expect to see in 2024.
1. The Unstoppable Rise of Adventure Running
Over the past year, we’ve seen the emergence of runners booking international running trips. The running tour operators we’ve spoken with have each seen double digit year-over-year growth. Ten years ago, adventure running trips were hosted “by trail runners, for trail runners.” This meant they were advanced and extreme – think, running over 20 miles per day for twelve days in Nepal.
Today, trips are designed for runners of all levels of experience. Some of which are even culinary focused trips with just a dash of running.
Who loves these trips? Unanimously, tour operators say – road half marathon and marathon runners.
Those who run for recreation and race for motivation and aren’t interested in crowded city marathons or trepidatious trail races any more. They’ll seek a new outlet to combine their running passion with outdoor vacations.
The most prominent U.S.-based companies offering trips abroad are:
- Rogue Expeditions: Rated the number one Running Tour by Women’s Running. Operating for over a decade, Rogue Expeditions hosts nearly 400 runners annually to popular running destinations like the Sahara Desert in Morocco, the Dolomites range in Italy, the Emerald Isle in Ireland, and the wilderness of Bend Oregon.
- Run Wild Retreat: Women-only running and wellness retreats offering domestic trips in places like Arizona, and international trips as far as Nepal.
2. More People Embrace ‘Slow Running’
There’s a growing contingent of runners that don’t much care about getting faster.
Running faster for most of us means more injuries, more soreness, and therefore, less time running.
For years, we’ve been conditioned to believe the way we improve our running is the improvement in our pace. But for many runners, the benchmark of running improvement will simply be the ability to run further without injury.
We’ll run more and we’ll run slower.
To support this initiative, running coaches will rebrand themselves to specialize as “Slow Running Experts.” Long, slow runs are where it’s at.
As a result, expect this year you’ll hear a lot more about your mitochondrial density.
Related: Why 80% of your runs should be slow
3. Taking a Break From Running Will Become a Trend, Then a Training Protocol
Toward the tail end of 2023, in a similar vein to slow running, there was a counter-movement brewing advising against powering through training burnout. That narrative shift is largely thanks to the Runner’s World article, “Taking A Break from Running Can Offer Real Benefits.”
The reason this article saw a lot of traction? It just feels right.
While it’s true that consistency is key to making training adaptations, it’s also true that over 50 percent of recreational runners get injured every year.
One way or another, this year we expect to see more scientific research around how to structure time off from running without losing your cardiovascular base. Also, how to phase running back into your fitness routine depending on how much time you’ve spent off.
4. The Brands You Love Focus on Community
We’ve become accustomed to how brands interact with runners.
Sometimes it’s a booth at a marathon expo. Other times, we watch the feats of storytelling around the athletes the brand supports (ahem: The Breaking 2 documentary with Eliud Kipchoge).
But in 2024, the brands that will make the biggest impressions on us will scale down their support of elites. They will focus on making a big impact on local running communities.
Our favorite example of this is Bandit Running, founded by Nick and Tim West. They’re the most active brand in the Brooklyn running community. They host a weekly running group, the Greenpoint Runners, race relays, and track workouts with olive oil companies.
And because of this, you’ll see 80% of the runners in Brooklyn in head-to-toe Bandit.
5. VO2 Max Tests Will Become More of a “Runner Thing”
It’s been a slow burn with VO2 Max unless you read Brady Holmer’s Physiologically Speaking.
Last year, longevity expert Dr. Peter Attia mentioned that “the most metabolically flexible, healthiest specimens on the planet — they are high level endurance athletes, namely cross country skiers, distance runners, and cyclists.”
Why is that? They have the highest VO2 Max on the planet.
It’s a simplified measurement of cardiovascular fitness, healthspan, and metabolic flexibility in an easily measurable format.
We also expect to see coaches and training plans monitoring and improving everyday athletes’ VO2 Max.
6. The Trail Running Boom Continues
Trail running is the seventh fastest growing sport in the United States, according to Strava data.
We have a few theories as to why:
Running on a trail is often more beautiful and interesting than a sidewalk in your local neighborhood cul-de-sac.
Second, trail running encourages slower running (with uneven terrains) and more leg strength (for ascents and descents), both of which support staving off injuries and running healthier for longer.
Lastly, a trail race or running vacation is a welcome option for life-long road runners who have raced their neighborhood half marathon for years on end.
We’ve also seen a rise of road runners competing in their first trail races and loving the experience. Here’s a few of our favorites you should consider following:
- Hella Sidibe: After completing a run across the entire continental United States, Hella competed in Western States, a 100 mile trail race in Olympic Valley in 2023.
- Flora Beverley: Flora has been running since 2018 and last year she completed UTMB OCC 50K.
- Alexi Pappas: In 2023, Olympic 10,000 meter runner Alexi Pappas completed her first trail ultramarathon at Leadville Trail in Leadville, Colorado.
- Nick Bare: 2:39 road marathoner Nick Bare also competed in the Leadville 100 in 2023.
7. More Runners Will Become “Hybrid Athletes”
In a 2023 article published on Medium, Andy Waterman, former head of content at Tracksmith, makes three points:
- Aerobic volume is everything.
- Mixing modalities is easier on and better for your body.
- Intensity management is essential.
Alternating your 20 hours per week of Zone 2 training between cycling and running will protect you from overuse injuries while also stimulating cardiovascular training adaptations required for endurance performances.
And as more runners realize they’re running with less injury and making greater training improvements, more will become “hyphenate athletes”.
8. Your Favorite Races Will Get More Creative
This year, we saw great evolutions in event promotions.
The Sedona Half Marathon ran a promotion where any runner who purchased a ticket prior to a specific date was entered to win a VIP experience with paid hotel, entry, and shoes for the race.
If you already planned to run the race, your incentives now skewed in favor of registering earlier.
Led by great thinking like this, races will get more creative in partnering with companies you love and rewarding early and returning runners with creative prizes and partnerships.
9. More Runners Will Go International
In addition to adventure running, we’ve seen a growth of interest in U.S. runners participating in marathons outside of the country.
The World Abbott Marathon Majors aside, the Valencia Marathon, Copenhagen, and Rotterdam Marathon have all exploded in popularity.
Seeing more efforts like SuperHalfs to help identify the highest-quality European half marathons will create better access to international running.
10. Some Runners Will Be Coached by AI
Considering it’s free and full of information, AI is going to play a big role in both coaching and nutrition for runners.
The biggest impact will be when it ends up in your Strava account — recommendations for an AI-generated running route, to train at a slower pace based on your fatigue levels, will all be tied directly into your workout tracking.
AI integrations may even recommend a protein-rich post-race recovery snack from a nearby grocer.
We’ll see a few brands and coaches incorporate it as a novelty (“Ask the AI about our product catalog” or “Ask the AI about our favorite recovery methods”) but it won’t be long until it’s par for the course.
11. Running Influencers Are Running Media
Most runners don’t consume traditional running media.
They may check into Runner’s World every once in a while about which celebrity ran the fastest time at the New York Marathon or whether bananas are good for recovery, but outside of topics that require a journalist or skilled research, many runners now get their daily dose of running from their favorite runner’s on Instagram and YouTube.
Running influencers and content creators will be the primary vehicle by which most runners find out about shoes, races, and training.
My favorite example: Mike Ko, more commonly known as Kofuzi, with 170,000 YouTube subscribers, who began recording videos on his YouTube channel 15 years ago and running content just 7 years ago.
If you’re interested in this movement, we’d also recommend following The Ginger Runner, Philly Bowden, Amy Haas, Matt Choi, and Kate Mackz in addition to some of the other content creators we’ve already called out.