Nearly eight in 10 runners in a Running USA survey said they participated in fewer events in 2020 due to the coronavirus but a majority still plan to be back at events this summer, according to a survey compiled by analyst Ashlyn Modlin and presented during a Running USA webinar on Tuesday.
The 2020 Global Runner Survey shows 78 percent of respondents ran in fewer events in 2020 and 94 percent were unable to participate in an event they planned to run in because of COVID-related cancellations. Eighty-seven percent believe that COVID-related cancellations will continue in 2021 and disrupt their scheduled competition plans.
Survey responses were collected from more than 5,000 runners from November through mid-December 2020.
“You can’t avoid talking about COVID-19 and the impact it’s had on runners,” Modlin said. “The runners who participated in this survey are no different.”
The negative news was countered by the future outlook. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they would participate in more events in 2021 than they did in 2020. Twenty percent said they wanted a vaccine to be readily available to the general public before they competed again.
Modlin added that in every type of event — whether a 10K, 5K, half-marathon, marathon, relay, trail running, ultra marathon and mud/obstacle race — respondents predicted that they would participate in a 2021 event in higher numbers than 2020.
“That is indicative of the level of excitement that runners have in being able to get back to in-person events,” Modlin said. “The data really shows us that there are lots of positive signs ahead for the running industry.”
Diversity was also a big topic of the survey. Modlin noted that the respondents were overwhelmingly white and affluent given the sport’s demographics. Among the recommendations from Modlin in the topic of diversity were to find ways to make entry fees more accessible to non-Whites and those for whom cost is a barrier to entry. Race organizers can also do things such as updating the imagery they use with promotional materials and social media to show more diversity and holding events in areas where a more diverse set of athletes live.
“Running USA is 100 percent all in with continuing the (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives in our sport and our events as far as making events more open for participants,” said Christine Bowen, Running USA’s vice president of programming, partnerships and operations. “It’s part of our strategic efforts going forward.”