Running USA survey finds that half of runners won't return to races

Runners appear to be evenly split on whether they will consider returning to in-person racing this year after the pandemic dealt a knockdown blow to the sport in 2020, according to an influential annual survey of runners that was released this week.

According to the 2020 Global Running Survey of more than 4,500 runners in North America that was commissioned by Running USA, 44% said they will participate in-person in 2021 when races are offered, while 20% said they would not feel safe at races until a vaccine is available and 24% said they would not feel safe even after vaccines are available.

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Running USA is a non-profit industry trade group founded in 1999 to promote the sport and the interests of those who participate in it. Since 2007 its annual Runner Survey has been a trusted source of information for industry insiders that assesses demographics, runner lifestyles, perspectives, habits and preferences. This year’s survey was conducted in November and December among adult runners who tend to participate in race events and train year-round.

The survey indicated 87% expect races they would want run will be canceled this year due to COVID-19 and 94% were prevented from running races in 2020 due to cancellations. Virtual races are regarded as a poor substitute for the real thing with 48% saying they are very unlikely to participate in virtual events and only 8% saying they were very likely to do so.

Regarding demographics, 61% of the respondents were female and nearly half of those responding fell into the 35-44 (29%) or 25-34 (20%) age groups. Other findings of note include:

  • 79% said they run for fitness and health while 44% said they run to relieve stress, 40% said they run for enjoyment, 23% said they run for solitude and 22% said they run to enjoy nature and scenery.
  • 22% described themselves as serious and competitive while 16% identified as joggers or recreational runners. Twice as many men said they were serious and competitive, compared to women.
  • 33% said their favorite event was the half marathon while the 10K, 5K and marathon distances each came in at 14%.
  • Brooks came out on top for running shoe preference (30%) ahead of Hoka (12%), Saucony (11%), Nike and Asics (both 10%).

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