Race Participation Trends

This podcast pairs well with this topic where Bob and Chris Robb of Mass Participant World join Panos of Race Directors HQ’s podcast.

We did our Market Analysis in mid March, and our Q1 Report, which were both pretty optimistic. However, we have done a bit of further analysis and are detecting some COVID impacts still. We are suspecting a general lack of energy by some race organizers, and a disconnect that has grown between events and their participants with the 3 years of separation between the Spring of 2019 (the last time Spring was normal) and Spring 2022.

One of the key pieces of data we reported in each was totals that showed growth in our overall data. For example, we shared this:

We also shared this data on per race registrations, showing things up a bit for small events and down a bit for large events:

Races in January – April

We recently took a deeper look at events that actually happened in January – April on our platform rather than the registrations that happened for future races above. In this data, we have seen growth in the number of events, but take a look at the right hand column that shows that overall participants per event is about even:

YOY Race Comparisons

Looking at the above data shows things are OK. But as we talk with people, there is this general sense that things are down 20-25%. So we did some analysis where we could compare races we had the data from 2019 and 2022, and we do a see a drop:

Why the Discrepancy

While COVID can be blamed for drops, it only explains part of the issue. Perhaps larger events are moving onto RunSignup and that helps the first set of numbers to show that so far this year the average event had 267 vs. 266 participants in 2019. But we think there is something deeper that may even be effecting those transitioned events.

We have a simple theory – energy. Bob saw this in the race he helps with, the Scott Coffee Run. Usually the Rotary club has an organization meeting in January, and this year it was April. The last “normal” year was June 2019, and since that time a couple of people on the committee have left the area, and the people left had kind of forgotten what we did and who did what. The Rotary Club weekly meetings also are seeing half of the attendance they did pre-pandemic, so there are less people to step into the vacated roles. And the 800-1,000 people that used to attend are not used to signing up for that first weekend in June after 3 years.

We think this story plays out across thousands of events.


We track churn on a monthly basis. We have been using 2019 as our baseline and seeing how many events over 500 participants have returned and how many leave for competitors.

About 20% of races over 500 in 2019 have not returned in 2022 in the January – April period. Pre pandemic this number was about 5-6%. We only lost one event to a competitor, and picked up 436 new events that were over 500 representing 70% growth for our platform – which is the reason why we continue to do well as a business.

We also think that those 436 new events on our platform are a mix of brand new events, but also existing events. The existing events had race directors who were energetic enough to make a move from whatever they were using before.

Green Shoots

We have an optimistic view of the future (beyond just continuing to pick up market share). We think there is pent up demand to get back together, but people have forgotten how and why. Event organizers who actively engage with their community can take advantage of the pullback by others and fill gaps.

The message to event directors is to bring optimism and energy to make your event successful as we emerge from the pandemic.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: