Do runners want to return to racing? Are virtual races a viable substitute? What type of runner is the most likely to run a virtual race? My hypothesis: it all comes down to why we race.
I surveyed 471 runners to find the answers. The respondents are my social media followers and members of a Facebook racing group. I think this is a large enough universe to be statistically significant. This will be a long blog post so I have summarized the key points below:
1. The top reason that runners race is because it motivates them to train for something and stay active. Over half of the runners surveyed cited this as one of their top two reasons for racing.
2. Of the runners who typically run 6 or more races per year, 46% of them have not registered for a virtual race. Within this same group, the top reason they race is the atmosphere (spectators, cheering, volunteers, etc).
3. Of the runners who are most motivated by the opportunity to set a PR, 59% of them have not registered for a virtual race. One could infer that they would not view a PR from a virtual race as legitimate.
4. Of all runners surveyed, 50% of them have not registered for a virtual race.
5. Of all runners surveyed, 12% (57 runners) believe that nobody should race a live event until there is a vaccine. Ironically, of these 57 runners, only 17 of them said they would choose the virtual option over the live option if a race offered both options. 14 of them said they would definitely race the live event, and 26 said it would depend on the size of the live event. I guess there is ideology, and then there is reality!
6. 22% of all runners surveyed do not agree with race cancelations, while 12% believe that nobody should race without a vaccine. The remainder fall in the middle.
The decision to run a virtual race is generally not correlated to motivation for racing.
My hypothesis was that certain types of runners would be more inclined to register for a virtual race than others, based on why they raced. This survey did not find any such correlation except for those whose primary reason was to set a PR. Within that group, the majority of them (59%) have not registered for a virtual race. Among the entire population of runners surveyed, 50% have registered for a virtual race.
I had suspected that the following primary racing motivations would equate to less virtual racing, but I was wrong. Within these groups, it's about 50/50 for virtual vs. not registered for a virtual race:
- The feeling of accomplishment and crossing a finish line
- The competition against other runners
- To try to pull out the best in me
- Trying to run a marathon in each state (multiple people stated this)
- To stay healthy and sane; lower anxiety
- To qualify for Boston
- A day to compete and get away from life
- The race was a half marathon or full marathon and they didn't want to cover it without support
- They had no interest in a virtual event
- They signed up for the race as a backup to a live race, but then that race also became virtual
- They didn't have the motivation
- Their primary motivation for registering was not going to be met with a virtual event
Of all runners surveyed, 12% (57 runners) believe that nobody should race a live event until there is a vaccine. The rest of the respondents think that small races can return safely, or they flat out do not agree with the cancelations. 103 runners responded, "I don't agree with the cancelations; let runners choose if they want to participate."