To better understand trail running and racing trends during the pandemic, the American Trail Running Association conducted a survey to find out how people have been competing, how they are staying connected, and if they are spending more or less time on the trails. The survey was conducted over a nearly three-week period from late October through November 11, and generated more than 2500 responses.
As with other surveys ATRA conducts, some basic demographic information was generated. Similar to many of our 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 what we see in U.S. trail race participation. Colorado, California, Utah, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and New York were the top seven U.S. states survey respondents call home.
One goal of our survey was to see if the pandemic affected how much time respondents were spending on the trail. We were reassured to learn that in spite of the challenges, most trail runners are spending the same or more time on the trails. Only a quarter of respondents have been spending less time running trails since the start of the pandemic. Three quarters of respondents have been seeking out new trails for at least some of their runs. Only two percent of respondents haven’t been running on trails in the past nine months.
We also wanted to understand what impact the pandemic has had on racing by comparing participant behavior this year versus 2019. 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, we also wanted to learn how our community is keeping connected during the pandemic. Thirty-seven 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. Just over a quarter of respondents regularly visited one or more of the following websites – trailrunnermag.com, ultrarunning.com and trailrunner.com.
To learn more about ATRA and to explore its many resources, visit trailrunner.com.