With the 2022 race season headed into a busy fall schedule, two independent surveys recently took a close look at the business of running and provide insight into where it is headed as the weather begins to cool.

Running USA Says Runners Prefer Real Races

First came a survey of more than 5000 runners from earlier this year by Running USA that found a vast majority (66 percent to be exact) of respondents plan to increase their participation in running events over the next 12 months. Another 29 percent say they will participate in the same number of events and only five plan to run fewer events.

The desire for in-person events comes at the expense of the pandemic-popular virtual races and, according to Running USA’s 2022 recently released Global Runner Survey, although 49 percent of runners had participated in virtual events over the last 12 months, only 11 percent now plan to finish more virtual events over the next 12 months (43 percent, about the same; 22 percent, fewer; and 24 percent were not sure).

The post-pandemic reason is fairly obvious, according to the survey: 75 percent agreed that virtual races did not match up to a real-life experience.

In other findings from the Running USA 2022 Global Runner Survey:

  • The half marathon continues to be the favorite race event by survey participants, cited by 59 percent; followed by 5K, 17 percent; 10K, 14 percent; marathon, 12 percent; 4 mile/8K/5 mile, 10 percent; 2K/15K/10 mile, 9 percent; 1 mile/2 mile, 6 percent; ultra-marathon, 2 percent; and 20K/25K/30K, 1 percent.
  • The favorite type of race remains the traditional road race, cited by 59 percent; followed by trail, 17 percent; triathlon/duathlon, 10 percent; mud/obstacle, seven percent; and relay, seven percent.
  • Asked about reasons for running, the top response was to stay in shape/stay healthy, cited by 72 percent. Other reasons: relieve stress, enjoyment, meet a personal challenge, train for a specific race, improve speed/endurance, appreciate nature, achieve goals/personal record, solitude, socialize, overcome a health obstacle, and raise money for a cause/charity.
  • Cost remains a concern and a barrier to race participation, with 66 percent saying they would participate in more events if entry fees were lower, although 58 percent agreed they receive good value for their race entry fees. Fifty-seven wished races offered something other than a finisher t-shirt.
  • On average, respondents spent $1,748 on their running hobby over the past 12 months, with the most spending on running shoes, followed by running apparel, nutrition, and hydration.
  • In another part of the survey, the top preferred running brands were Brooks, Nike, ASICS, New Balance, Hoka, Saucony, Adidas, Altra, Mizuno, Salomon and On.

Runners Value The Brands That Sponsor Races

In a separate survey conducted by Elevent, a provider of sponsorship lifecycle management software, consulting services and research, runners proved to be more sponsorship savvy than the general public, including having a more positive perception of sponsors and a willingness to work with them.