October 2020 COVID Numbers Update

We began monthly updates in July after doing weekly updates that ended in Week 18, and are shifting to monthly (August) and Quarterly (Q3) updates. The monthly update is meant to give stats that are useful to the endurance and nonprofit communities we serve.

Quick October Numbers:

  • Transaction volume was down 14% to $21.9M
  • Overall Registrations down 17% to 501,513
  • Live Race Registrations down 70% to 175,157
  • Donations up 98% to $4.6M

Virtual and challenge races still make up the bulk of the registrations, but we have seen live race registrations slowly creeping back up to about 35% of total registrations that past few weeks:

COVID is our UltraMarathon

We can think of these difficult times in the endurance community as an Ultramarathon. And we are about 25 or 35 miles (our watch broke, so we really do not know) into a hundred miler. We are 8 months in, and our expectation is that things will seem normal (although still be different) in 2022. Just like an Ultra, there is no skipping the hard miles and getting right to the finish. We need to grind it out with a steady pace, taking regular nourishment. All of the race organizations, nonprofits, timers, and clubs who put on events need to find a way to survive the tough times.

We got some expected, yet bad, news during October with the announcement from the BAA that the Spring 2021 date is a no-go. The Wall Street Journal also had a depressing article showing Athlinks data of results being down 95% since the pandemic hit in mid-March.

That data is a bit of “rear view mirror”, as we are seeing registrations for live events being down “only” 70%. Also, most races are not the Boston Marathon. In fact, only 6% of total registrations is done by the Top 100 races – the vast majority are much smaller races.

Green Shoots of Creativity

The NYTimes took a more optimistic tone with their article “How to Run a Race in a Time of Surging Coronavirus“. Some of our customers as well as our own Johanna Goode were quoted about how to put on live races.

As the numbers show, we are seeing people signing up at a rate that is “only” down 70% rather than the 95% in the Athlinks results data – which makes sense because our data is showing future races rather than past. Some of that growth is the migration from other registration platforms as we continue to gain market share (averaging about 182 new customers and 440 new events per week since August 1). However the real bulk of those 175,000 registrations were from existing races. There were 448 live races that had over 100 registrations, and 994 live races with more than 50 registrations (3,184 with at least one registration).

These numbers make sense – it is far easier to put in smaller races than larger races. Some of the timers we partner with have become experts at putting on safe, properly sized and spaced events.

We are also seeing larger events learning how to adapt. The Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis counts on their annual Turkey Trot to raise funds for their critical role in helping the poor and hungry in their community. While they will not hit the 17,000 registrations they had last year, they are able to cap their event this year at 6,000! They have multiple starting times and are ensuring proper social distancing. The Richmond Marathon is providing an innovative approach of having unmanned start and finish mats out over multiple days so thousands of participants can run safely, and leveraging our RaceJoy GPS tracking technology to ensure participants run the full course.

Virtual Events and Challenges are the Nourishment Events Need

As the numbers at the top of this blog prove, it is virtual events and challenge events that are providing the revenue that so many of our customers need to survive. We are seeing few live events that are scaling to what they were before the pandemic.

We are seeing success when events connect with their supporters. Not only are people willing to keep supporting the events and organizations behind them, it is a way to stay connected. Our fear is that those organizations who are completely sitting on the sidelines will lose that connection and just like when you do not train for a race, you lose the conditioning that is needed to be successful.

Hybrid 2021

Hybrid is the path forward in 2021. This means a mix of virtual, challenge and live events. Either giving the option for one specific event, or spread out over multiple events like the Indianapolis 500 virtual series.

We have created a new Hybrid information hub to help share ideas as your organization makes plans for 2021. Feel free to share success stories with us – we all need positive news during these tough times.

We can’t run the ultramarathon for you, but we are here to help with the tools and ideas that will help you survive this grueling period. As Jim Heim from the NYRR was quoted in the WSJ article:

“We took the elevator down,” said Jim Heim, senior VP of events and race director for New York Road Runners. “We gotta take the stairs back up.”WSJ, Oct. 27, 2020

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