Home > The Scene

Study finds that 28 per cent of runners started during the pandemic

More than a quarter of the running community picked up the sport in the past year

A recent study from RunRepeat found that 28 per cent of current runners got started in the sport during the pandemic. The study surveyed close to 4,000 individuals, and it found out more about these new runners and what they want out of running. From training motivations to race preferences, their answers may be a surprise to veteran runners. With that said, when the pandemic is considered, their responses make a lot of sense. 

Race participation 

While most “pre-pandemic runners,” as RunRepeat refers to them, love to race, about half of new runners aren’t too keen on the idea of competition. Of those surveyed, 63 per cent of pre-pandemic runners plan to race (either virtually or in person) in the coming 12 months, but just over 50 per cent of new runners said they will do so.

The start of an in-person race in Thailand in 2021. Photo: Twitter/JRNHeadlines

Of the runners who said they will race at some point in the next year, a whopping 85 per cent of pre-pandemic runners said they hope that event will be held in person. The new runners who said they would race, though, don’t mind virtual events as much, and only 68 per cent of the group said they want to run an in-person race. 

RELATED: Exercise rates on the rise during COVID-19

That leaves a relatively large chunk (about 31 per cent) of new runners who would prefer to compete in virtual races. RunRepeat found that new runners are 115 per cent more likely to run a virtual race than pre-pandemic runners. At first, this might sound ridiculous to pre-pandemic runners, but it makes sense if you think about how these new runners entered the sport.

New runners didn’t get into running for races, and it was instead used as a way to pass the time and keep fit while gyms were closed around the world. Plus, new runners started running when their only competition option was to race virtually, and with no in-person events to compare these runs to, they prefer the virtual format. 

Not everyone wants to run in person when races make a comeback. Photo: Maxine Gravina

Running motivations 

Motivations to run also vary between the two groups. About 34 per cent of pre-pandemic runners are motivated by competition, but that only drives 22 per cent of new runners. Social interaction is another reason to get out for some people, but this only excites 11 per cent of new runners compared to 16 per cent of pre-pandemic runners. This makes sense, too, as new runners weren’t permitted to run together, so they have yet to experience the fun of group workouts.  

RELATED: Women are outrunning men at ultra distances

While physical health is a big motivator for both groups, it’s more of a factor for new runners, 72 per cent of whom said that drives them to train. On the pre-pandemic side, 61 per cent of respondents said physical health motivates them. Once again, this adds up, because so many people turned to running for fitness at the start of the pandemic.

There’s no denying that we have experienced a running boom in the past year or so, and that’s due to the pandemic. It was easy to understand why so many people picked up running during lockdown (it was one of the only activities people could do), but it wouldn’t have been as easy to guess why these new runners have stuck with the sport. To read the full RunRepeat study, click here.

Check out the latest buyer's guide:

The best online sales on running gear

Now's the time to stock up on some of your favourite brands