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Road running is the sport of running on a measured course over an established road (as opposed to track and cross country running). These events normally range from distances of 5 kilometers to longer distances such as half marathons and marathons, and they may involve large numbers of runners or wheelchair entrants. Road running is part of group of road events known as "road races".

Road running may offer those involved a range of challenges and interests such as dealing with hills, sharp bends, varied surfaces, inclement weather, and involvement in a large group. Aerobic fitness, or the ability of the body to use oxygen, is important to help complete the long distance. Anaerobic fitness, the body's ability to respond when there isn't enough oxygen for the muscle, is helpful when encountering hills and providing energy for a sprint at the finish.

The impact of running on roads puts more stress on the feet, knees and lower back than running on dirt or grass. It can compensate by providing a consistent, level surface. It may put less strain on the Achilles tendon.


Race courses are usually held on the streets of major cities and towns but they could be on any road. Most road races are either 5 km (3.1 miles), 10 km (6.2 miles), 20 km (12.4 miles), half-marathon (21.097 km, 13.1 miles), or marathon (42.195 km, 26.2 miles), but non-standard distances are also used. The "Round the Bays" run in Aucklandmarker, New Zealandmarker is 8.4 km (5.2 miles), the Tely 10 in St. John's, Newfoundlandmarker is 16.1 km (10 miles), the Falmouth Road Race in Falmouth, Cape Cod is long, San Francisco'smarker "Bay to Breakers" is 12 km (7.46 miles); "City to Surf" in Sydneymarker, Australia is 14 km (8.7 miles), Honolulu'smarker "Great Aloha Run" is 8.15 miles (13.12 km), the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Floridamarker is 15 km (9.3 miles), the "King Islandmarker Imperial 20" is long and the "Charleston Distance Run" in Charleston, West Virginiamarker is 15 miles (24.14 km).

Most road race courses have a certificate of course accuracy which confirms that they have been measured with an accuracy of better than 0.1%, i.e. to within 10 m for a 10 km race. Measurement is normally done by means of a calibrated bicycle fitted with a Jones Counter. If a world record is set on a race course, the course is independently remeasured to verify that it was the correct length.


Running that covers a distance farther than a marathon is called ultrarunning; the event is an ultramarathon. Such events can be measured in distance (for example, 100 kilometers) or by time (whoever has run the farthest after 24 hours). Examples include the Londonmarker to Brightonmarker run in Englandmarker which is just over 54 miles (87.085 km), the Comrades Marathon run between Pietermaritzburgmarker and Durbanmarker in South Africa which is about 89 km (55.3 miles), and the Badwater Ultramarathonmarker between Death Valleymarker and Mount Whitneymarker in the United Statesmarker which is 135 miles (215 km).

Multiday running

Beyond the ultramarathon lie the multiday and stage races. These events include current events such as the Self-Transcendence 6 & 10 day and 3100 mile races in New York, Trans-America, Trans-Gaul, Trans-Korea, Trans-Europe race and the cross Germany race - the Deutschlandlauf. In these events runners have to complete as many miles as possible in the given time limit - the go-as-you-please style or have to complete a given distance in a set time such as the daily stages of the trans-country races where cut-offs are enforced.


Road running is unique among athletic events because in many cases first time amateurs are welcome to participate in the same event as members of running clubs and even current world-class champions. Though often race times are recorded manually by race organizers, sometimes road races feature electronic timing using transponders.

Road races are often community-wide events that highlight or raise money for an issue or project. In the USA, Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure is held nationwide to raise breast cancer awareness. This race is also run in Germany, Italy and Puerto Rico. Similarly, Race for Life holds races throughout the UK to raise money for Cancer Research. First person "race reports" frequently appear on the Dead Runners Society electronic mailing list. Dublinmarker, Irelandmarker's Women's Mini-Marathon is said to be the largest all-female event of its kind in the world.

Governing body and International Organisations

Road racing's international governing body is the IAAF. National governing bodies which are affiliated to the IAAF are responsible for road races held in their country. Of the thousands of road races held each year, 238 races, including some premier ones, are members of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS). Many race organizers (or the running clubs which conduct the races) are members of the Road Runners Club of America. In addition, the USA Track & Field plays a role in selecting representatives for certain international competitions under the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.

Competitors from around the world participate in what is dubbed the "elite" races for cash prizes. Kenyansmarker and Ethiopiansmarker are renowned for their skill and it is rare for a race's top finishers not to include competitors from these countries.

See also


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