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The number of adults doing weekly sport did rise by nearly 2 million in the run-up to 2012—but the general population was growing faster.

I consulted the dictionary but could not find a suitable meaning. Is "in the run" a phrase? In particular, what does "run" mean here?

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    I think the first dash is a typo for “... in the run-up to 2012 ...” meaning “in the period before 2012 ...” – Anton Dec 5 '20 at 15:10
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    No: "in the run" is not syntactic unit, not a constituent. Run-up" is a compound noun whose meaning is easy to find in a dictionary, see here:link – BillJ Dec 5 '20 at 15:11
  • This is a cross-post of an ELL question. Please do not post on multiple sites. – Eddie Kal Dec 6 '20 at 0:45
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You have to take it as a phrase. "In the run-up to" means "leading up to"

From LexicalLab -

The run-up to a big event is the period of time before it

From Lexico -

The period preceding a notable event

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Please note the punctuation you originally used: you used an em-dash ("—") instead of a hyphen ("-"), and that drastically changed the sentence.

The "run-up" (to something) is the "final period of time before" (a notable event).

"Run-up" is a compound noun, like "build-up" and "show-off", which may be hyphenated (joined with "-"), closed (joined without punctuation, as in "Superman"), or open (left separate, as in "coffee mug").

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