The Best Running Moments of 2012

September

New American Records in the 24-Hour Run

Mike Morton of Florida and Connie Gardner of Ohio broke the American records for the 24-hour run, and set the master's 24-hour run records for their respective genders at the IAU 24-Hour World Championships in Katowice, Poland. Morton, a master sergeant in the Army, won the world championship race less than eight weeks after winning the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race to survive the scorching heat in Death Valley, California. Morton bettered ultra legend Scott Jurek's previous American record (165 miles) by seven miles. Gardner ran a total of 149 miles, finishing second among women and helping the women's team win the champonship title. 

October

More World Records for Ed Whitlock

Ed Whitlock, 81, of Milton, Ontario, the cotton-topped distance runner known for his consistency, perseverance and habit for smashing age-group world records, was the first person over the age of 70 to run a sub-three-hour marathon (2:59:10) in 2003. Last year, after he lowered his 80+ world marathon record to 3:15:54, he slipped on ice and broke a rib and missed a couple of months of training. He came back strong in 2012 to set two new world records: the 80+ half marathon record in 1:38:59, and the age-81 marathon record in 3:30:26 at the Tornoto Marathon in October. 

Costumed Runners Defy Logic, Set Records

October: Keith Levasseur finished the Baltimore Marathon in 2:46:28 ... wearing flip flops. After the race, Levasseur told reporters that he has no plans of repeating this feat, even if a challenger were to better his time. 

October: Adam Campbell smashed the world record for running a marathon in a business suit by finishing the Victoria Marathon in British Columbia in 2:35:53, good for sixth overall. The previous record was 3:24:46.

November: Camille Herron won the women's race at the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2:48:51 wearing a Spiderman costume. Herron's time was 20 minutes faster than the previous Guinness Book of World Records mark for a women's marathon in a superhero costume.

November

New York City Marathon Participants Volunteer

Although disappointed by the cancellation of the ING New York City Marathon for the first time in the race's 43-year history due to the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy, thousands of runners in town for the race poured their energy into helping victims of Sandy, particularly on Staten Island, site of the race's start line.

More: The 2012 New York City Marathon: An Alternative Finish Line

December

Pros Getting Faster in the Marathon 

It's official: Marathon times are getting faster at the top of the fields, according to numbers compiled by running statistics guru Ken Nakamura, and 2012 was an exceptional year for both male and female elites. As of early December, 43 men broke 2:07, and 33 women ran 2:24 or faster this year. Even more staggering: 11 men ran under 2:05 this year, compared to seven in 2011. Looking back farther reveals just how competitive distance running at the professional level has become. In 1999, only 81 men had run 2:11 or better, compared to 235 men in 2012. In 1999, only 56 women had broken the 2:30 barrier, compared to 148 this year. 

Kenya's Patrick Makau holds the world marathon record, 2:03:38, and Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain holds the women's world marathon record with her 2:15:25 finish at the 2003 London Marathon.

best running moments 2012

The Second Running Boom Crescendoes 

Running USA reports that participation in road races has grown 170 percent since 1991—there were 13.9 million road race finishers in 2011, and 55 percent of those runners were female, compared to just 25 percent in 1990. More women are toeing the line next to men at 5K races, which remains the most popular distance in the U.S., followed by the half marathon. Mud runs, obstacle races and off-road events are becoming wildly popular; their numbers have ballooned to nearly 1 million participants. 

According to reports from the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, 50,061,000 people ran at least once in 2011, up 7.3 percent from 2010, and 19,008,000 individuals ran 100 days or more last year, a 9.3-percent increase over 2010. Of course, more runners means more shoe sales, and consumers spent $2.46 billion on shoes in 2011, compared to $2.32 billion in 2010. 

A special thanks to Sam Grotewold for the reporting and commentary he added to this piece. Follow him on Twitter, and check out his weekly podcast for more about the elite racing scene. 

More: The 10 Best Running Cities in the U.S.

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