Q2 RaceTrends Update

We release an annual RaceTrends Report each winter to provide a thorough assessment of the state of the endurance and fundraising events industry. This year, as event organizers adapt to new conditions, we are pulling a few key metrics mid-year to provide a real-time look at what we are seeing. Just want the highlights? You can hear Bob & Johanna discuss the findings on the Head Start Podcast.

The Data

The data used for this report includes internal GiveSignup | RunSignup data from January through June of 2021. The numbers represent 5,040,397 participants in 2020 and 3,017,908 from the first half of 2020. We estimate that our data represented 25-30% of the endurance market in 2019; while the market is less stable today, we have continued to gain market share.

1. In-Person Events are BACK But Virtual Options are Here to Stay

The big question we’ve heard coming out of 2020 was what will happen to virtual sas in-person options return? So far, the answer appears to be that in-person events will dominate, but virtual isn’t going anywhare.

This chart shows the current percentage of registrations attributed to in-person, virtual races, and virtual challenges:

This chart shows the percentage of race events that identified as in-person, virtual, or challege across 2019, 2020, and the first half of 2021. Note that the specific challenge category did not exist until 2020.

Key Takeaways

  1. In-person events are taking over, but 28.4% of races in the first half of 2021 were still virtual (including challeges), compared to just 2.8% in 2019.
  2. Those early 2021 numbers include winter events before vaccines were widely available, so we anticipate the percentage of events that are virtual to continue to fall through the remainder of the year. With the continued success of some types of virtual races and challeges, we predict that they will hold onto a higher share of events than we saw in 2019.
  3. Hybrid events (those with a virtual option) have been increasingly standard. While they vary widely, an light assessment of several large hybrid events indicates that races are seeing 5-10% of participants opt for the virtual event.

2. People Aren’t Procrastinating as Much as You Think They Are

Anecdotally, we have heard a lot of chatter about procrastinating runners and last minute registrations. However, to our surprise, the data does not show that participants are registering later than in previous years.

There could be some discrepancy in our data due to spring races that were postponed to the fall after registrations had been taken. To try to get a better idea what the true trends are without those significant postponements, we compared only registrations made in the last 3 months before race day. Even with that, race week registrations are slighty down compared to 2019, with 25% registering on race week.

When Runners Register:

Race Week28%31%25%
8-14 Days15%15%13%
15-30 Days24%24%24%
30-60 Days22%20%24%
60-90 Days11%9%12%

When broken out by distance, it’s clear that the longer the distance, the earlier the registration. But no distance category showed a significant change from pre-pandemic registration patterns.

Key Takeaways

  1. Across all distances, race week registration is flat or down compared to 2019.
  2. The standard regsitration curve – early spike, lagging registrations two weeks out, and then a late jump – looks very consistent to those we see each year.

3. Race Prices are Trending Back Towards “Normal”

Pricing is an area where it’s difficult to draw conclusive information because we are not able to split our virtual prices from in-person prices, and virtual events have very different considerations, tending to cost the same regardless of the distance of the event. However, a look at prices across the last few years suggests that prices are returning to a relatively “normal” level.

A few months ago there was a lot of discussion of “Covid Fees” increasing prices, with a few high profile events adding fees to cover additional costs of protective gear and reduced race caps. While it’s not something we can measure directly, we are not seeing anecdotal evidence of widespread Covid Fees, likely due in part to the rapid reduction in additional safety measures that were expected to add cost.

Race Type2017 Average Price2018 Average Price2019 Average Price2020 Average Price2020 Change from 20192021 Average Price2021 Change from 2019
Half Marathon$64.46$67.58$64.35$52.66-18.2%$59.93-6.9%

Another pricing metric that helps us to understand what’s happening in events is the number of price increases. In 2020, uncertainty and the proliferation of virtual events led to a significant reduction in races using price increases to motivate action. While early 2021 still shows fewer price increases than 2019, the frequency of them is starting to creep back up.

Race Type201920202021
Half Marathon2.11.21.6

Key Takeaways

  1. While an increase in the number of virtual events still appears to be impacting pricing, we are seeing prices move back up. We expect this trend to continue as virtual races become a smaller percentage of all races.
  2. The re-emergence of price increases indicates new confidence that events will happen. Less uncertainty allows races to open earlier and with a more strategic approach to pricing.

4. Women and Older Athletes Stick Around, but Young Runners are Scarce

Demographics within race participants appear to be consistent with pre-COVID trends. Women continue to make up a majority of race participants, although the gap decreased slightly as in-person events returned. Our 2020 numbers demonstrated that women were much more likely to join virtual events than men.

Gender2017% of Total2018% of Total2019% of Total2020% of Total2021% of Total

The conclusions from the ages of participants is a mixed bag. While the continued increase of older participants suggests that some of the new virtual participants from 2020 may be sticking around (older participants are much more likely to join a virtual event, especially challenges), the industry condinues to struggle to attract participants under 30. While the percent of participants under 30 has been falling for years, the drop of 18-29 participants to just 11.8% (from 16.3% in 2019) deserves some discussion amongst race organizers. It is possible that some of that gap is due to later availability of vaccines for younger Americans, so it will be important to track what happens with that group in the second half of 2021.

Age2017% of Total2018% of Total2019% of Total2020% of Total2021% of Total
Under 1818.6%16.9%17.8%14.4%13.70%

Key Takeaways

  1. While male and female participation in races remains relatively steady, we did see a jump in n/a categorization in 2021 as more races take advantage of flexible options around gender to provide more inclusive events.
  2. Older participants are sticking around, with 27% of participants over 50, compared to just 22% in 2019.
  3. The industry needs to get creative to find ways to bring in younger participants. While we know that those under 30 are less likely to join virtual events, that only explains some of the decline, especially as in-person events return.

5. In-Person Events Are Being Scored at Rates That Approach 2019

Another source of data for the recovery comes from our scoring software, the legacy Race Director software as well as the next generation RaceDay Scoring. While there are many versions of software out there, the two combined are use to score enough events to draw some conclusions.

The number of events scored by one of the two GiveSignup | RunSignup software programs has gradually increased throughout the year, with the last week of June nearly matching 2019 (208 races vs 209). To date, 3,300 races and 847,000 participants have been scored by The Race Director or RaceDay Scoring in 2021.

  1. While in-person events are not yet being scored at the same rate as 2019, the gap is closing.
  2. Timers who spent their year on virtual events are getting a crash course in scoring again as races return. The next Certification for RaceDay Scoring is coming up on July 20.

6. The RaceJoy Experience is Booming

RaceJoy, previously known only as an on-course race tracking app, saw drastically expanded usage in 2020 as they added features that brought elements of live racing and spectating to virtual races as well. With more and more events going hybrid, we are seeing races use RaceJoy as a common element to connect the experience of both in-person and virtual runners.

To date, RaceJoy has been used by 650 races and 118,000+ runners in 2021, compared to 360 races and 109,000+ runners at this point in 2019.

That’s an 81% increase in races offering RaceJoy.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Virtual races brought RaceJoy to races of all sizes and scopes by solving a need for an experience within the race. As it has become more expected as a part of race day, we anticipate continued growth in usage.
  2. RaceJoy Certifications have increased, leading to more and more timers who are able to provide RaceJoy support to their events. The next Certification for RaceJoy is coming up on July 20.
Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply