The Running Boom: Programming for New Pandemic Runners

Programming for the “running boom.”

A recent survey conducted by RunRepeat asked 3,961 current runners how many of them began running during the pandemic. The survey aimed to learn more about running motivations, participating in races and how the runners differ from those who began before the pandemic.

Here are the key findings:

  • 28.76% of current runners started running during the pandemic.
  • These new 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 runners. This is up 18.03% from runners who began running before the pandemic.

Nick Rizzo, the fitness research director at RunRepeat, said the current situation poses a major opportunity for any recreation center who has already been tackling member engagement by offering programs like outdoor classes and bootcamps.

“In the same way you can offer running events, you can simply start by gauging what interests your current members,” said Rizzo. “Although running may seem like an obvious answer, options like weekend hiking or walking groups might come out as a major winner as well.”

In the next 12 months, 50.04% of new pandemic runners plan to participate in a race. This is in comparison to the 63.08% of pre-pandemic runners. Currently, these new runners are 20.67% less likely to participate in any form of race, in-person or virtual. And of these new runners looking to participate in a race, 68.42% plan to race in-person in comparison to the 85.34% of pre-pandemic runners.

running boom

When it comes to virtual races, 31.58% of new-pandemic runners are looking to race virtually instead. They are 115.37% more likely to run a virtual race than their pre-pandemic counterparts.

Matt Beck, the associate director for the department of wellness at Oklahoma State University, said virtual runs took advantage of people’s inability to use recreation facilities during the shutdown and appealed to a person’s desire to challenge themselves and compete in something.

“Our team put on virtual 5Ks in the fall and spring. One is being planned for the upcoming year. It’s much easier to facilitate than the logistics required for an in-person run, and seemingly just as satisfying,” said Beck. “Additionally, indoor tracks in recreation facilities can often be a forgotten feature. Departments should highlight that amenity for runners to utilize in the winter months or in poor weather conditions.”


Read the full report on the running boom from RunRepeat.

Brittany is an editor at Peake Media. Reach her at

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