Q3 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 each quarter to better evaluate the recovery of the industry.

The Data

The data used for this report includes internal GiveSignup | RunSignup data from January through September of 2021. The numbers represent 5,108,772 participants in 2020 and 5,259,608 from the first 3/4 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. Virtual Holds Steady

While in-person racing has steadily increased over the course of the year, restrictions and uncertainty introduced by the Delta variant did cause a late summer uptick of virtual as the Delta variant re-introduced some restrictions and uncertainty. The good news? The ease of converting to virtual prevented the most-impacted areas from needing to cancel completely.

And, despite Delta, most events were able to continue in person with 77% of September registrations for in-person events – more than we saw at any point between March 2020 and May 2021.

When comparing the number of race events that are currently virtual (below), as opposed to registrations (above), the picture is similar. While in-person events make up 75% of all 2021 events (so far), that still represents a significant increase in virtual events compared to 2019, when just 3% of events were virtual.

Key Takeaways

  1. Virtual isn’t going anywhere. While the percentage of participants that are virtual may continue to drop, the status of virtual as a viable option (and a smart contingency plan) ensures that it’ll stick around for years to come.
  2. The lessons of 2020, including an improved understanding of COVID-19 and new modifications to race day, have helped races to weather new challenges and continue to offer in-person options. Despite a few high profile cancellations of in-person events, more than three quarters of registrations each month were for in-person events.

2. Turkey Trots are Hybrid

While our standard reporting identifies how many virtual and in-person race events are happening, it’s harder to nail down how many of those are a part of a hybrid event with both options available for the same event. The upcoming Turkey Trot season provides a perfect opportunity to check-in on the status of hybrid.

Although we are still in the early days for signups, 424 event have begun taking registrations for Thanksgiving Day. We ran a manual review of the top 100 races for the day and found that 65% of them are set up as hybrid options. In 2019, the inverse was true – just 34% of the top 100 Thanksgiving Day races were hybrid.

Key Takeaways

  1. Hybrid is normal. With their potential to bring in participants from outside the regional area and the flexibility to handle any unexpected issues, hybrid events have gone mainstream.
  2. It’s a little too early to predict how big Thanksgiving Day will be, but it’s an encouraging sign that there are already 424 races with registrations, compared to a final total of 458 in 2020 and 488 in 2019. Between those 424 races, there are already 75,000 registered participants on our platform – about half (48%) of the total participants the day saw in 2020, with 7+ weeks to get more registrations.

People (Still) Aren’t Procrastinating as Much as You Think They Are

Despite plenty of nervous chatter about hesitant registrants, the data doesn’t back up the idea that participants are waiting to register. The numbers after Q3 look almost the same as it did after Q2, with fewer people actually registering on race week than in the previous two years.

Note: 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.

When Runners Register:

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

Key Takeaways

  1. 25% of registrations are coming in race week. While that’s not more than in 2019, it’s still a quarter of your race. Keep registrations open until the start gun goes off to maximize your participation.
  2. People are excited to get back out to racing! Don’t be gun-shy about promoting your event early.

3. Prices Remain Steady (But Impacted by Virtual)

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.

The longer the distance, the larger the discrepancy between 2019 and 2021 prices, reinforcing the idea that the decrease in average prices is the result of remaining virtual events. While a virtual 5K and an in-person 5K may be similar in price, a virtual marathon is likely to be much cheaper than an in-person one.

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%$60.04-6.70%

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. Men and Younger Runners are Returning (Gradually)

Race demographics are starting to revert to the pre-COVID norm, including increasing participation by male athletes. We know from 2020 that female participants are far more likely to join virtual events than males, but the shrinking gap suggests that male athletes are enthusiastic to return for in-person events even after sitting out 2020.

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

One encouraging trend from the Q3 report is the improving percentage of young runners. At the conclusion of Q2, the percent of runners under 30 was 25.5%. With Q3 added in, that’s inched up to 28.7%. While some of that is likely be due to cross country events this fall, there’s reason to be optimistic that young runners will be more excited for in-person events.

Age2017% of Total2018% of Total2019% of Total2020% of Total2021% of Total
Under 1818.6%16.9%17.8%14.4%16.4%

Key Takeaways

  1. With the return of in-person events (including cross country), participation from runners under 30 increased. NOW is a key time to re-engage youth in your events, and get them excited about the industry.
  2. While young runners are returning, older runners are also sticking around, with 10.2% of participants exceeding 60. Continue to offer inclusive events with multiple distances and virtual and in-person events to appeal to a wide range of participants
  3. One outgrowth from the popularity of non-competitive (largely virtual) events in 2020: an de-emphasis on collecting demographics at all. In 2021, more participants than ever before did not report a male or female identity (2.5%) and/or did not report an age (3%).

5. More Races Scored than 2019

We looked at the number of races scored by either our next generation scoring software, RaceDay Scoring, or our legacy product, Race Director. The general trend of scored races in Q3 was nearly identical to that of Q3 in 2019, with the final week of the quarter actually exceeding that of 2019.

The dynamic fall was certainly impacted by the growth of in-person events, as well as by the return of cross country – especially with the recent release of V3 of RaceDay Scoring that includes cross country support.

  1. Through Q2, 2021 followed a traditional, but slightly slower, pattern for race scoring. In Q3, scoring took off, actually exceeding the number of scored races in 2019.
  2. Traditional race timing is back. With many timing companies scrambling to re-up their team to meet demand, we’re midway through a new onboarding series to help get new timers up to speed.

6. RaceDay CheckIn App is Picking Up

The RaceDay CheckIn App got an overhaul in 2021 after a slow 2020 due to virtual events. As in-person events pick up, so does adaptation of the new technology.

With fall races and Turkey Trots still to come, usage has rebounded with in-person events. With 2,516 using the CheckIn App to check in 707,065 in the first three quarters of 2021 – already more usage than the app saw in any year aside from 2019.

Key Takeaways:

  1. With the emphasis on efficient, touch-less packet pickup, technology is key for getting people through check in quickly. While virtual races and in-person caps are still impacting the total number of runners checked in, we expect a record-setting year for races taking advantage of the CheckIn app.

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