The Top 5 Takeaways From This Year’s Race Trends Report (2023)

Each year RunSignup puts together an annual Race Trends Report presenting findings from data collected on our platform throughout the year. Since we play host to tens of thousands of events, we’re uniquely positioned to find insights that may elude others.

The report covers a wide range of topics and is quite extensive. Though we certainly encourage anyone in the race event space to read the report in its entirety, we wanted to share a few of the biggest takeaways from this year’s Race Trends Report.  

Below are our top five takeaways. 

*Editor’s note. All the data cited in this article is from events hosted on our platform. It is a large sample size, but may not be completely representative of the entire market. 

1. Overall participation is back to pre-pandemic levels

It’s no secret that endurance events declined during COVID. Over the past few years participation has slowly moved back toward pre-pandemic numbers. Between 2022 and 2023 we saw a 9.8% increase in per-race participation, which is in line with 2019 participation numbers (down 1%). 

However, there are a few things to note within that. First, small to medium sized races (500 participants or less) grew the most, with a 14% year-over-year increase compared to 2019. However, larger races (events with over 500 participants) saw a 16%  decrease in participation. 

Recommendation: Reorient your marketing strategy to focus on growth. 

2. Young adults are (sort of) coming back to events

Attracting younger runners is key to the longevity of endurance events, and the running industry as a whole. This last year we saw positive gains in participation from young adults (18-29). Participation from that group increased about 1%  from last year, to 15%. It’s still lagging a bit behind pre-pandemic numbers but has steadily increased over the past few years as in-person events have returned. 

The numbers suggest that younger runners are more attracted to in-person events. This could be due to the social aspect of an in-person event and a desire in the 18-29 age group to start socializing in-person again as the pandemic continues to fade into the past. 

Recommendation: Offer and promote groups/teams.

3. Mobile + fast checkout are key

In 2023 74% of all race site website traffic came from mobile devices. Let that sink in for a second. Having a mobile-optimized site is a must-have. Full stop. With RunSignup all of our sites are already optimized for mobile devices, making the viewing experience top-notch. 

Continuing with the mobile theme, 60% of all transactions also happened on a mobile device. Meaning people aren’t just viewing races on their phones and tablets, they’re also registering on them at a high rate too. Further, 31% paid using Apple Pay, or with a saved credit card. 

Using those methods reduces friction in the buying process, making it much easier for someone to make a purchase. And research consistently shows that the easier it is to buy something, the more likely it is someone will. So, having those options is really helpful to improve overall registrants for a race. 

Recommendation: Use mobile-optimized RunSignup websites and emails – and always check your content on a mobile device!

4. Race week registration holds steady

Week-of registrations for events stayed steady in 2023 with about 25% of all registrations happening in that timeframe. That’s about the same as it’s been since 2017,  so keep it in mind when planning an event. 

It’s also important to know that the type of event has an impact. 5k events had the highest level of week-of registrations. Whereas events like marathons and half marathons have significantly lower week-of registrations at 7% and 10% respectively. 

Recommendation: Accept that there will be late registrations and make on-site registration easy to maximize revenue. 

5. Email drives registrations

There might be marketing gurus out there decrying the end of email as a marketing channel, but that’s not what we’ve seen. In 2023 17% of race transactions on RunSignup came directly from email. Some larger events even saw as much as 25% of transactions come from email. 

With RunSignup you get access to free email marketing tools, making it a no brainer to use. Email is incredibly powerful because it’s very precise. You know who your message is going to. It’s also powerful to use as a reminder for things like pricing changes to further motivate potential participants to register sooner than later. 

Recommendation: Create an email strategy that includes strong calls to action (like price increases) – and use and customize automated emails to save time.

Moving forward

2023 was a year with a lot of positive change and a return to normalcy in endurance events. It showed there’s a lot of opportunity for endurance events to be successful and grow in the upcoming year as long as they’re aligning themselves with participant expectations and taking the time to be thoughtful in how they engage with the community. 

If you’d like to learn even more about the state of endurance events, check out the entire Race Trends Report here. And if you haven’t already, you can create a race event free with RunSignup here

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