Running Boom: 28.76% of runners started during the pandemic

Posted on 04 June, 2021 by Nicholas Rizzo

We surveyed 3,961 current runners to investigate how many began during the pandemic. We wanted to learn about their motivations for running, whether they’ll participate in races, and how they differ from those that began before COVID. 

Key findings:

  • 28.76% of current runners started running during the pandemic 
  • These new-pandemic runners are 19.82% less likely to participate in in-person races over the next 12 months 
  • New runners are 115.37% more in favor of virtual races than pre-pandemic runners
  • Motives for running are changing - physical health is the primary motivation for 72% of new-pandemic runners, up 18.03% from runners who began running before the pandemic

How many current runners began during the pandemic

When the 3,961 current runners were asked when they began running, 28.76% stated that they started to run during the pandemic. 

when-did-current-runners-begin-running

71.24% are “pre-pandemic runners”, runners that began running before the pandemic

Race participation: New-pandemic runners vs pre-pandemic runners

Only 50.04% of new-pandemic runners plan to participate in a race over the next 12 months in comparison to the 63.08% of pre-pandemic runners.

new-pandemic-runners-race-participation

Currently, these new-pandemic runners are 20.67% less likely to participate in any form of race, in-person or virtual. 

Of these new runners that are looking to participate in a race, 68.42% plan to race in-person in comparison to the 85.34% of pre-pandemic runners. 

new-pandemic-runners-race-preferences

31.58% of new-pandemic runners are looking to race virtually instead, making them 115.37% more likely to run a virtual race than their pre-pandemic counterparts. 

Running motivations: New-pandemic vs pre-pandemic runners

72.78% of new-pandemic runners are motivated to run primarily for their physical health and overall benefits of exercise, 18.03% more than pre-pandemic runners.

running-motivation-of-new-pandemic-runners-vs-pre-pandemic-runners

New runners are running for their health, all while being less likely to choose any of the other options as a primary source of motivation. Specifically, these new runners are:

  • 34.27% less likely to run for competition or achievement
  • 31.44% less likely to run for social interaction
  • 14.81% less likely to run for mental or emotional health
  • 3.00% less likely to run for their confidence or self-esteem

Conclusions

Our Fitness Trends 2021 report showed that outdoor activities like running were the #1 trend in 2020 and 2021, increasing significantly over the year. This study shows that there has been a significant boom in running during the pandemic. The situation and circumstances that these people have taken up running are drastically different than their pre-pandemic counterparts. 

With more than a quarter of runners having begun during the pandemic, the “average runner” has changed. From their motivations to their race participation and preferences. Focusing much more on the physical health benefits of cardio and being much more highly in favor of virtual races. 

Use of Content

If you have any questions regarding the above findings, the following report, or are looking for interviews, please feel free to reach out to Nick Rizzo, the Fitness Research Director here at RunRepeat (nick@runrepeat.com). 

Feel free to use any of the findings, data, and graphs from this report. We just ask that you link back to this report when doing so. 

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Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.