RaceTrends: Are Races Declining?

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Today, we’re taking a look at one of our most controversial findings from our 2017 RaceTrends Report: are races growing?

Data Definitions

To make sense of our findings, you’ll want to keep in mind a few parameters:

  • We can only evaluate the growth of races on the RunSignUp platform, not all races nationally.
  • This report takes into account races that were on our platform for 2 sequential years (2016 & 2017) only, meaning it demonstrates growth among the same set of races, not simply that registrations on RunSignUp are growing.
  • For the purposes of the data, our definition of “Race” is different than normal. On your dashboard, a “Race” can include several “Events” – normally, events being different race distances. In the table below, a “Race” is equivalent to an “Event” on your race dashboard (i.e. represents a single distance). This allows us to compare 5K’s to 5K’s and half marathons to half marathons; it also means that each “Race” (as defined on your dashboard) can be counted as several “Races” in the table.

Registration Totals


Finishers vs. Registrants

Over the last two years, there has been media coverage and industry concern about declining numbers in races; Running USA’s US Road Race Trends Report for 2017 showed a 1% decrease in participation, while our numbers show a 1.5% increase in participation. What’s the difference?

  • Running USA draws their numbers from finisher data, while ours is pulled from registration data. The market has seen an influx of next generation events, many of which are untimed and thus, report no “finishers”. So it is possible that participation is growing in the overall market, but not within the segment that focuses on traditional, timed events.
  • We’ve invested heavily in tools to help races promoted their events. Without data from a range of registration providers, it’s impossible to gauge whether our races are growing because all races are growing, or whether they are benefiting from better race marketing.

Takeaway: A decline in numbers is not a foregone conclusion. If your event is struggling, look for new audiences by adding a new race distance or including an untimed or “fun” option.

Takeaway: Race promotion is changing, and word of mouth is important. Look into marketing techniques that take advantage of participants’ trust in their friends with Referral Rewards programs, social sharing links, ambassador programs, and group/team promotions. Invest time in making RaceDay special: participants who have a spectacular experience are more likely to send people your way in future years!

We’ll take a closer look at more of the findings from the RaceTrends Report in the coming weeks…but you can check out the full report here anytime. 




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