Looking to see if the pandemic affected how much time runners were spending on the trail – and how they were staying connected to the running community – the American Trail Running Association recently reached out to its members and found out that while most trail runners are spending the same or more time running, 26 percent of them are waiting until a vaccine is widely available to get back to trail running events full time.

On the flip side, the good news is that only two percent of respondents haven’t been running on trails in the past nine months. The conclusion: Runners want to get out and exercise and are finding the trail an ideal place to pursue their passion in a socially distant manner.

The survey was conducted over a nearly three-week period from late October through November 11, and generated more than 2500 responses. Similar to many of its previous surveys, just over half of respondents identified as male. Three quarters of respondents were between the ages of 30 and 49, which is similar to trail race participation in the U.S. Colorado, California, Utah, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania and New York were the top seven U.S. states survey respondents call home.

Among the findings of the ATRA survey:

  • Three quarters of respondents have been seeking out new trails for at least some of their runs.
  • Seventy percent of respondents participated in at least one trail race in 2019, compared to only 30 percent since the start of the pandemic in March.
  • Unsurprisingly, that data indicated a big increase in virtual race participation with 37 percent having done at least one since March.
  • While Fastest Known Times (FKTs) can make big news and keep trail runners connected with the community, only six percent of respondents have attempted one in 2020.  While only one person can hold an FKT, 23 percent of respondents are using GPS tracking devices to attempt personal records to make non-race performance improvements.
  • When asked under what circumstances they would return to in-person races, 26 percent of respondents are waiting until a vaccine is widely available. Six percent are waiting until 2022 before they return to in-person trail running events. 
  • In a sign of hopefulness, 41 percent of respondents are researching trail races online with the hope that they will be going to in-person events soon.

In addition to understanding changes in runners’ on-trail activities, ATRA sought to learn how its community is keeping connected during the pandemic. It found that 37 percent of respondents are interacting with their friends on Strava, 30 percent are researching gear and trail shoes online and 23 percent are listening to trail running podcasts.

For more about ATRA visit https://trailrunner.com/