During a recent internet trawl I came upon a post on the "Athletics Ireland" website which gave details of registered athletes within Ireland, (a few NI Clubs appear to be double registering.) The most recent figures disclose that there are a total of 38,310 individuals registered via their clubs. This is up from 34,459. An 11% annual increase. In addition to these registered athletes there are of course many thousands of runners who are members of unaffiliated running and jogging groups.
The Athletics Ireland figures give a breakdown of competitors between juveniles, seniors and masters. Unsurprisingly it is the juvenile section which has the greatest number of participants, - 22,975. What is slightly worrying and disconcerting is that the balance of the total is made up of 11,536 masters and only 3799 senior athletes. Worrying yes but I have to say that it does not surprise me. Many events just could not take place if it wasn't for the presence of those who are longish in the tooth. I suppose it is a reflection of people living longer, the plethora of road runs and maybe, just maybe a desire by people to regain some fitness in their more mature years before bones and muscles cry a final no.
The retention percentage from juvenile to senior must also be worrying for athletics' administrators. Taking account of the relative age spans it seems that under ten percent of those who dip their toe into the world of athletes continue to senior level. Not a very high conversion level.