LAST UPDATED: 16 April 2024

Race Trends 2023

A look at market registration data and trends from RunSignup's 2023 RaceTrends report.

Johanna GoodeJohanna Goode

Race Trends 2023

It’s that time of the year again. RunSignup’s annual RaceTrends report is out for 2023, and it’s larger and more comprehensive than ever before!

Among the most notable trends highlighted in the report we see registrations for 2023 races up from 2022 and tantalisingly close to 2019 levels, entry fees continuing to climb across most race distances and event types, and encouraging trends in younger runner participation first seen in 2022 carrying through to 2023 numbers.

With me today to go through the data, the trends and their implications, I’m delighted to welcome back to the podcast RunSignup’s Director of Marketing, Johanna Goode. Among other things, Johanna is the person we all have to thank for compiling this invaluable piece of industry research each year, and with her help we’ll try to get a feel for where the industry ended up in 2023 and make sense of what the future might hold for race directors in 2024 and beyond.

As with RaceTrends reports we’ve looked at in the past in the podcast, we’ll only have time to go through the most important highlights from the report, so if you’d like to get your hands on the full set of findings, head over to where you’ll be able to find and download your free report copy. 

In this episode:

  • The methodology and data behind RunSignup's RaceTrends report
  • Are we back to 2019 registration levels?
  • Are race timing companies disappearing?
  • Repeat participation numbers across different events and how to increase repeat participation in your races
  • The importance of integrated email marketing 
  • Why are larger races continuing to lag behind smaller races in participation growth?
  • Are virtual events still around?
  • Participation trends in the 18-29 age group and how to foster higher participation among younger runners
  • Are people registering later than they used to?
  • Entry fees are going up, while the number of price increases is going down
  • The rise of mobile registrations and how to optimise your race website for mobile users

Thanks to RunSignup for supporting quality content for race directors by sponsoring this episode. More than 28,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. If you'd like to learn more about RunSignup's all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events visit

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Episode transcript

Panos  1:46  
Johanna, welcome back to the podcast! 

Johanna  1:49  
Nice to see you, Panos. 

Panos  1:50  
It was great to see you. It's been a while. How have you been? 

Johanna  1:54  
Been great. And getting back into kicking up for races this year. So we're seeing a lot of movement and race is getting ready to get set up. Looking forward to 2024. 

Panos  2:04  
How busy of a time is this for RunSignup and registrations, in general?

Johanna  2:09  
It's not the busiest time for registrations because it's a pretty light month for races, but what we do see a lot this time of year is races that are getting ready to set up. So we have a lot of contact with race directors who are looking to next year and thinking about what they need to do to get ready for this year's event. 

Panos  2:26  
And of course, it's very busy for you this time of year because you do the RaceTrends report which we'll be getting into, right? 

Johanna  2:31  

Panos  2:32  
It's been getting more and more comprehensive. It's been a real resource for the industry. You sort of manage this single-handedly, right? 

Johanna  2:40  
We have help from a couple of people in terms of pulling some of the data and hopefully editing, although we know there are still some typos in it every year. But the majority of it, yes, it's mine. 

Panos  2:54  
Awesome. So for some of our listeners who have been with a podcast for a while, this is our annual tradition. This episode is coming every year sort of around this time, which is we get to go through the RaceTrends reports. This would be for one year back, for 2023, essentially. So we're now in 2024. All the data from the 2023 events are in and we're just taking a look at how the industry has been doing. Funnily enough, we started this-- I think the first episode we did was in 2022, looking back into the 2021 report which, of course, was a total disaster because of COVID and everything, everything looked pretty dire. 2022 was a bit better - bit of a halfway house there - with things recovering and stuff. How's 2023, big picture wise?

Johanna  3:43  
Yeah, so I think we think 2023 is pretty optimistic. When we look at our data, one thing that we do each year is look at races that are on a race in subsequent years. So these are only races that were on our platform in 2022 and 2023. And so that tells us how much did individual races grow versus how much did our platform grow. And within that, we saw about a 10% increase from 2022 to 2023 on a per-race basis, which is obviously great. And then we can take that back a step further and look at races that were on a platform in 2018 and 2023 to kind of compare how those races are doing compared to pre-pandemic. And from that, we were down 1% compared to 2018, and I consider that essentially even. There's always going to be a tiny bit of variation there but that kind of suggests to us that we are back to baseline 2019. And maybe next year, it doesn't actually need to be wrong. We can just start moving forward and thinking about growing from here instead of comparing back to pre-pandemic. 

Panos  4:48  
Well, amen to that. I mean, we're all looking forward to that. So basically, you're saying that just to eliminate the whole thing of how RunSignup is growing. You just look at the same races that have been around since '19, '22, and '23, and you're just looking at participation within those races. And you're saying that 2023 is sort of at par with 2019 levels?

Johanna  5:13  
Yeah, correct. So that's taking out any growth on our platform. 

Panos  5:17  
Okay. And now, just to take a step back to kind of - disclaimer, we go over in all of these episodes - just to remind folks, why do we believe that all this data that's coming out of RunSignup is representative of the market as a whole? So you just mentioned, for instance, that looking at RunSignup races from '19 to '23, they look pretty flat, which is great. So we're back almost to 2019 levels. But why should we think that everything we're going to be discussing today about data coming out of RunSignup registrations essentially is representative of what's happening in the broader market?

Johanna  5:54  
Yeah. And so, the answer to that is just the volume of registrations. We estimate that we're about 40% of market share in the US. There's no single aggregator of data on the running industry. That's kind of why we do this because there was no way to do it across the whole industry. But from what we can tell from race listings and public listings, we believe it's about 40% of the market and that tells us that this has to be pretty representative. We have races across the country. We have races that are 100-person races. We also have races that are top 100 largest races. So we think we have a pretty good subsection. There's going to be little places here and there where we do think that something specific that we changed or did on our platform may have impacted a number - we try to identify that if we think that's true - but in general, we think this is likely how things are going to look kind of across the industry. 

Panos  6:47  
It's interesting because at least the sort of perception I had of RunSignup until very recently is that you guys are particularly strong in the kind of grassroots level, and I know people who are at that kind of level starting new races or doing more community type events. Most of them, I would imagine more than 40% are on RunSignup. Do you see that skewing the data in any way in terms of what goes into the report? 

Johanna  7:14  
No, because I think-- yes, we have a lot of small races, but I think most races are small. We do set up our platforms so that it's easy for them in terms of it's really easy for people to come in and self-serve. They don't need to talk to a sales rep. I would say with the possible exception of one other registration platform, most registration companies in the US are designed with some level of self-serve for smaller events and then perhaps more hands-on for larger events. I don't know. They haven't shared their numbers but I would expect that that's actually pretty consistent across the country. 

Panos  7:52  
Okay, cool. I mean, obviously, I would say that having 40% of the registration market is a very significant number of registrations in the overall market. So I think this data is quite representative of what's happening out there broadly. Now, going back on the numbers, you mentioned that 2023 registrations were up almost 10% on 2022, flat on 2019. Is there anything in the data telling us sort of the direction that 2024 might take going forward in terms of this momentum that seems to be showing in the trend?

Johanna  8:32  
If you look at 2019 to 2023, it is broken down monthly and you can see a little bit of an uptick where the highest months were August, October, and November, which does suggests that this might be improving even more at the end of the year. Other than that, the only thing that we can point to is that our numbers starting out in 2024 have been very strong, and we have seen an actual increase per customer revenue in 2019, looking into 2024 as well, so we think that that is true. But I think it's a little bit too early to say, for sure. The other thing I'll just quickly call out is the way that we run this is actually not a full calendar year. It's a full year but it's not a calendar year. It's December of 2022 through November of 2023, and that is because we want to get the data out early in the year in January so that it's useful and applicable to people during the year. But we're talking about a year ending in November. That's why.

Panos  9:30  
Now, I know that you guys and you personally also have your ear on the ground on these kinds of things, and as we'll see with a couple of other things-- and we've seen in the past, like, price when people register and stuff. Sometimes there's a little bit of a disconnect between what the numbers show and what people on the ground perceive to be the fact of the matter. So are you getting the same kind of upbeat messages from race directors that they're actually feeling, like, things are going back to 2019. Does it feel like that to them on the ground?

Johanna  10:06  
Yeah. So I think, in general, yes, we've gotten a lot of positive notes-- the conversation around Thanksgiving races this year was amazing because, across the board, people just kept talking about how much their events are growing. The caveat to that is, when we talk to race directors - and we've done a lot of face-to-face with lots of race directors this year because we've been doing road shows we've been on the road a lot, we were just around USA - the caveat is that a lot of our largest customers, largest races did not do as well this year. And so, if you are going to kind of that cohort, you tend to have a little bit more frustration still. But even within that, there is improvement and I think everyone is feeling like the industry is back and ready to move forward.

Panos  10:54  
Yeah, we'll get into that trend within large races. It's been persisting for a while. It's an interesting one, I guess. From the people that you see when you do your events around the country, do you see many, many new faces? Are there kind of, like, green shoots, new companies going into the industry, new people doing events?

Johanna  11:15  
It's been pretty much a mix, I think, at least of the five or six roadshows I've been at. We'll have one or two people who are putting on their first race, just starting out in the industry, and really want to learn something. We'll have a timing company or two who are there to meet other races and try to provide some of their support or their services. And then, you'll have, like, your large veteran race directors who've been doing this forever and are just hoping to find something that they didn't know in a way to think about things a little bit differently.

Panos  11:46  
Since you mentioned, race timers-- I don't want to digress too much but since you mentioned race timers on this, we keep a directory of race timers as you guys do as well and I've noticed - just trying to keep up with data and cleaning things around that - lots of companies have folded actually in race timing throughout the pandemic and we at least don't see many new companies going into race timing. Is that something you guys see as well? Do you see many sort of, like, new players in race timing coming in and taking over from the ones that just disappeared during the pandemic?

Johanna  12:21  
I think there's a couple of things, I think. Again, this one is not a database, this is just from our observation. But a lot of timing companies that we've seen that have disappeared got away. There are a lot of older adults who've been doing this for a long time. They've been timing for 50-60 years and they are kind of just ready to move on anyways and there's sort of two routes that's gone. One is either the company just folding in them or recommending another timer to their races. Another option that we see often is that the company is still sticking around but it's being taken over by a newer younger employee who is coming in and stepping into that role. And so I think some of it is that those companies are-- it's not necessarily a new company that's coming into the market but it's a new leader within that company. Some of it is there are some really good, really aggressive timing companies out there who are growing a lot, who are expanding their markets, and they are picking up some of that. I do think we've seen some newer timers coming into the market. My perception is that a lot of people are coming into the existing market and moving up within their company versus starting from scratch all the time, although I have met a few of those too.

Panos  13:42  
That tracks That's a good point, the whole early retirement thing has been quite big, both with race management companies and timers during the pandemic. Lots of people who may have been 5, 8, 10 years away from retirement, they may have called it a day simply because of all the tough times that we all went through during the pandemic.

Johanna  14:02  
When we did our timer survey this year - I mean, actually, every year we've done it - the majority of timers also have a full or part-time job. And so, there are certainly people who do this as their full-time job and it's all they do. But for a lot of timing companies, it's a side project for them anyway. And so I think there's people who are just like, "It's not worth my weekends anymore at this point. I'll get some time back."

Panos  14:25  
Yep, absolutely. So back to the RaceTrends report. Repeat participation, that's something we also looked at last year. It's a very important metric. Explain to us why it's so important and walk us through what it's been doing and what the numbers have been showing in 2023.

Johanna  14:46  
Yeah. So when we look at repeat participation, we're looking at participants who run a race in a given year and then went back to the same race the next year. The one note that I'll make on this that I think is helpful for understanding - it's not quite as bad as it sounds - is that this looks particularly at going back to the same event distance. So, someone who ran the 10K at the Philly marathon one year - actually isn't one but we'll say that - and then came back and ran the 10K the next year and not a different distance as well. But I think, even with that said, most races expect this number to be much higher and, I think, perceive it to be much higher in their own events. Only 16% of participants who ran an event in 2022 came back and ran that event in 2023, and that's come down-- it was around 18% in 2018. I think it peaked around 20% a year or two before that. And we have seen that fall, it's gotten better since the pandemic, there was really, really low repeat participation during the pandemic. We had 10%, 12%. And that makes sense because people who want to run virtual races are the same people who want to run in-person races. But we haven't quite seen it get back to where it was. Triathlons, ultra marathons, and marathons do the worst. Currently, they get about 8% to 11% repeat participation. Shorter distances do a little bit better. 5K's are at, like, 17% and 10Ks are at 18%. But it's definitely something I think people should keep in mind. I think a lot of races take for granted that people who've done their race before will want to come back but I think, sometimes, it takes a little bit of extra marketing to actually get there. We love seeing events that do good loyalty programmes where they really provide early registration, or a discount, or some sort of special experience. People who have either run last year or if you have too many of those to want to do it, who've run five years, you start building up programmes where people feel like they're really connected to your race because you really actually have to work hard to get people to come back every year.

Panos  16:53  
I think all that makes total sense to me. To be perfectly honest, I never got why people expect this number to be any higher than the sort of 20 percentage that it is right now. Right? I mean, I have never personally done a race twice. And obviously, I'm not talking even marathons, which most people-- I mean, if you're not local to a marathon - and people like to travel to these kinds of events - you wouldn't do it. I mean, I know people who do, like, their local 10K every year or, like, a nice 10K by the beach that they may enjoy and that kind of thing. But I mean, most races are bucket list type events. It's not something that you tend to repeat. If anything, what I'm saying is that I'm actually impressed it's up in the 20% - to be able to get 20% of your existing customers, so to speak, back for this kind of event seems quite impressive to me. 

Johanna  17:47  
I think, again, it's the perception. A lot of the examples you use are our bucket list races, but most races are like the 5K down the street and I do it every year because it's down the street and I know the person who organises it. And so, I think that sort of balances those large events that you're only going to do once - a lot of the really hyperlocal events.

Panos  18:12  
I mean, on the other hand, as you were talking there, I reminded myself that you guys are pretty big on these kinds of, like, Turkey Trots and stuff like that, which-- 

Johanna  18:21  
Annual tradition. 

Panos  18:22  
Yeah, exactly. I mean, these are built for repeat participation, right? It's like we're all going to do it every year.

Johanna  18:28  
And I think race directors, when you talk about their perception, even a big large race, they see people who come every year, they recognise those faces, and so they feel like they're getting people back because they're seeing the same people again. It's just they're not recognising how small the group that actually is. 

Panos  18:43  
You mentioned earlier, with regards to repeat participation, the kinds of things that people can do to increase repeat participation. I watched the webinar you did on RaceTrends for RunSignup and I took a note of what you mentioned there, which I think is really important. You said you need to find ways to remind people how much they enjoyed your event. How can people do that? 

Johanna  19:07  
Yeah, I mean, I think you have several channels for communication with your runners - websites, email, and social media. So email and social media will be the most useful just for this, but even making sure you have previous year's photos on your website-- one thing that I really liked seeing races do is actually setting up an email to previous participants who haven't yet registered that includes a link to their personal photos from the year that they actually ran, that's tied to their results. They could include it as a quick replacement tag. Everyone gets their own individual link. And then it's a reminder, "Oh, right. I was there. I see myself. I see how much fun I was having." And it kind of personalises the event that way. 

Panos  19:49  
I want to use this opportunity to just take a quick detour into what you guys have been doing with your emailing system, and I want to actually stress how important-- I'm going to do this for you. I'm going to stress how important it is for people to appreciate how much help it is to have an integrated email system. Okay? This is not a pitch. This is not an ad, but just trying to get listeners, I hope, to understand what a big deal - whether we're talking RunSignup or some other registration provider - it is to have integrated email marketing, right? Because everything that you just mentioned, you want to send an email to someone who did the 5K last year and you want to have their photo and a personal link and all of that stuff. You can probably do that in MailChimp and other systems, right? But keeping back and forth all that data, keeping it in sync, it's just a total nightmare. Whereas with an integrated system, you just say everything happens around data around the race and events, and you can say, "For every participant that was in the 5K, do this and that. Pull from the race photos," which is going to be a nightmare in other systems, right? 

Johanna  20:59  
Yeah, it's a lot less downloading and uploading and hoping that you don't mix up your columns and send someone the wrong set of photos.

Panos  21:09  
We did an event on RunSignup a couple of years ago, a Race Directors Run, during the pandemic - like, a virtual run. So I haven't had first-hand experience with the new email system. How has it been? People liking it? 

Johanna  21:22  
Yeah, it's great. So all of our RunSignup email goes through it. So I use it all the time. We send all of our newsletters and all of our internal communications, webinars, and such through it. We've gotten really good feedback. I think we've made the final steps to actually close sending from the original version. So everyone, from now on, we'll be sending out our V2. And yeah, it's a lot more flexible, a lot prettier, a lot easier to do more so.

Panos  21:52  
And in terms of registrations, what percentage of registration comes through email? Do you have a handle on that? 

Johanna  21:59  
Yeah. So, the one number that we can pull is registrations that come directly from our email system. And so, in 2023, 17% of registrations across all races were directly from an email, which means last touch-- so someone was on their email, they clicked on their email, they immediately registered. That doesn't include people who sent email through MailChimp and then registered because that is then seen by the tracker as essentially a direct hit on the website. So we expect that number will go up as people continue to use email within the platform more and more. And if we say 17% was from email, just from our platform, we know that real number is even higher. So I would venture a guess that you're hitting at least a quarter or so of your registrations from email, which means it's still pretty important to your marketing strategy.

Panos  22:57  
No, absolutely. I mean, every single marketing episode we've done on the podcast that touches on email, even when we're discussing other stuff, everyone would tell you, Andy Reilly, who's a sort of, like, podcast marketing expert will tell you that it's quite up there. I mean, it's probably number one - email. Right? I mean, it's a little bit old school. It's not the new shiny thing, but it is the most important thing. If you get it right, it's going to get you the registrations, particularly around price increases and stuff which we're going to look at a little bit later in terms of how important these are for getting people registrations. You mentioned the whole situation with larger events versus smaller events. The whole industry we saw has been growing but it's been a little bit of a two-speed kind of situation - larger events not doing as well as smaller events. You want to talk us through those numbers a bit? 

Johanna  23:54  
We've seen this since we started coming out of a pandemic that larger races have been lagging behind and we definitely saw that continue. So we look at races that were under 500 participants this year. Those races actually grew compared to 2019. So they were up 14%. Races that were kind of mid-sized, 500 to 5000 participants, they were down about 5% to 7%. So still not quite at that baseline 2019 number but within range, I think. They felt around the same size. They felt like in the same kind of event and they were all the way back. The largest races over 5,000 saw a 16% drop compared to 2019, which is obviously a pretty big difference. And yeah, there are exceptions there. If you look at the top list of the top 100 races, there are races that grew. The majority of them though did not and that kind of broke everything down and I don't think there's one specific reason that we can cite for that. I do think that, likely, inflation and travel costs have to play in because large events are going to rely on travel and on tourism in a way that a local event may not, and I think the cost of the race may not be that big of a barrier. Even if that's gone up, it's not that big of a difference, but the cost of the hotel rooms and the flight and even just the decision to travel when there's been a lot more uncertainty around things happening, I think that's probably still impacting it. And I think just getting out of traditions, you've done the same races year after year, some of that got kind of interrupted. And so it's been hard for large races to get back on people's schedule, get back in their minds, get them planning around it, but we've definitely seen a difference there between your big events and your small events.

Panos  25:43  
We had actually touched on this last year because the trend was prominent last year as well. And I was going through last year's episodes, transcripts, where we had Bob Bickle there as well who also said that alongside this kind of trend of broken traditions, he seemed to think that there's also-- perhaps during the pandemic, there was a little bit of an erosion around staff, particularly with larger events - lots of people moving on. So, like, that whole thing broke down. And I do hear lots of stuff. I've been hearing it for going on a couple of years now, around issues events are having in recruiting volunteers, which I'm guessing that for larger events, it's going to be even tougher, right?

Johanna  26:30  
Yeah, especially if they had systems set up, a lot of larger events are going to go through community organisations. So if some of those relationships have been lost, that would be harder to rebuild, especially if you've lost the institutional knowledge of what groups to reach out or the person who's in that group is no longer there. A lot of large events rely heavily on group volunteer participation versus just individual signing up.

Panos  26:56  
You didn't mention that one in three of your top 100 races is still growing, which is a good sign. Let's remind people - I'm sure most race directors will not have a good feel for this either - of sort of the distribution of events because I speak to lots of people in the industry, particularly on the vendor side, and they're like, "Yeah, I want to get in touch with, like, a small event, something like 1000-2000 people." And that's not small events at all, right? I mean, the distribution of events in this industry is completely skewed towards the very many smaller events, right? 

Johanna  27:36  
Yeah, I think that is-- especially because the race directors who are often going to be listening to a podcast going to an event about race directing, they probably do this with either more than one event or larger events. I think people don't realise how many races there are out there that are 97 people in front of someone's driveway for a loved one, and that really is just a massive part of the industry. Yeah, only about 5% of races have more than 1,000 participants, which is quite small. 

Panos  28:11  
Well, and the importance of this only 5% of races having more than 1000 participants number is that, if you think about it, total participation is very heavily skewed. Like, it's basically made up of small events, right? Lots and lots of very small events. Like, the top 100 races probably don't account for a significant amount of the total number of registrations out there.

Johanna  28:35  
Yeah. So, actually, we didn't pull-- I don't have the math on the top 100 but I do have 12% of participation that takes place in a race that is over 5000 and the smallest race to make the top 100 list was around 7,000. So it's probably under 10% of participation comes in - I'd say probably more, like, six or seven - out of a race that's one of the top 100 races. About a third, about 31% are people in 1000 to 5000. So you do see a good bit of participation - not of races, but of participation. Those races, a lot of people, that's what they experience - kind of your mid-size to large event. But then, a majority is just running at small events.

Panos  29:27  
Okay, virtual races. They used to be huge. They used to be the only thing around basically a couple of years ago. They're now down to around 8%. So I noticed in the report. Maybe you can help me understand the numbers here. So there's a number that says virtual races are around 8% of all races and virtual events are about 3.2% of all events. What's the difference between those two numbers? 

Johanna  29:56  
8% is the events - the percentage of race events that are virtual. The 3.2% is the percentage of participants that are virtual. 

Panos  30:06  
Okay, so basically, are we saying that 8% of races are virtual-exclusive? They're just virtual? 

Johanna  30:15  
8% of race events. 

Panos  30:16  
No. That they have a virtual component. 

Johanna  30:18  
Yes. So, of all of the events, if we're counting, if they have three in-person events and one virtual event, a quarter of their events are virtual of that race. So yeah, across all-- counting each race event, specifically, each race distance, essentially separately. 8% percent of virtual and then another 1.3% of challenges, which is another sort of form of virtual. 

Panos  30:40  
Okay, and across all of those, you're saying around 3% of participants are basically participating in virtual events. 

Johanna  30:50  
3% in a virtual event. That's like a one-time thing, and then another 1% in challenges that tend to be longer-term virtual.

Panos  30:57  
Okay, looking back at 2019, again, which is sort of, like, the reference point for pre-pandemic. That number used to be closer to 1%. Obviously, virtual races had, like, a massive, massive hike around the pandemic. Things are coming down. Do we have a sense whether we're heading back to the 1%? Like, are virtual events gonna end up being as rare as they were before the pandemic? 

Johanna  31:27  
So I mean, we have continued to decline so I don't want to say definitively that we are at the kind of bottom of that. I do somewhat expect it to stay above the 1% that it was before simply because I think people now know that's an option. So, there's a race that, unlike you, I have done for 11 years. If I was going to be out of town and couldn't do it, I would perhaps be like, "Well, I don't want to break this. I'd like to do this virtually." And I think if people now know that's an option, we'll continue to see a small bit more than we used to. I don't expect this in any way to go back up and I think it's still possible. It will continue to decline a little bit. But I do think it's an option that people now know is on the table and are kind of expecting if they can't do something in person.

Panos  32:13  
I mean, I remember you guys, back during the pandemic, you've developed quite a lot of technology around virtual events and challenges and stuff. Are you continuing to focus resources on anything around that - challenges and all that stuff? 

Johanna  32:30  
In terms of new development, no. Because I think we're pretty happy with where that lives. We do have some customers who use particularly the challenge software and, like, in really cool ways and still do really large events on the challenge platform, but I don't think we have additional things that we are developing for virtual.

Panos  32:50  
Okay, Backyard Ultras, I see, and those kinds of challenges are still quite popular. Like, there's a couple of things that actually survived the pandemic, like people doing little challenges like that where mileage adds up, that kind of thing.

Johanna  33:05  
Yeah, and there's some nonprofits that have a really widespread supporter group that do some really interesting things with activity challenges tied to fundraising. And so there's stuff like that that we still see, but it's a really niche kind of market and I think not something that I would recommend for every event.

Panos  33:26  
Well, moving on to gender trends. It's not the kind of thing that moves wildly from year to year. Female participation is still the majority of participation in races - a little bit down to 53% but still more women doing races than men overall. There's a figure that you added since last year on the non-binary category, which seems to be steady at around 0.2% from 2022. This is across all events, right? So basically, it's just non-binary participants from the races that offer that option taken as a percentage of all registration across all races, whether they offer this or not, right?

Johanna  34:11  
Yes, yeah. So the feature was enabled on our end in spring of '22, I believe, but it's an optional feature for races to turn on or not. So we know that there's a good bit of number of races that have not yet enabled that. So I would sort of expect that to go up over the next few years as more races enable it. 

Panos  34:32  
One of the big ones, one of the big trends that I like to follow - lots of people in the industry like to follow - is what's happening with that very difficult-to-crack 18 to 29 age group. So we've been following that for a while. It's been showing some pretty alarming trends in the past of people in the 18 to 29 age group. Participation within that group, as measured as a percentage of all participants, falls through a few years. Last couple of years, there's been an uptick here. So we're still down around nine and a bit percent from 2019, in terms of the percentage participation within the 18 to 29. But we're up from 2020 to 6%, and 2022 was actually up from 2021. Do we understand what's happening here? Do we know why this number is sort of growing? Is it a trend we can rely on? 

Johanna  35:28  
So I think there are a couple of things you have to look at a little bit long term. The report actually only shows numbers back to 2019 but we've been doing this longer than that and I know around 2017-2018, we saw about 20% of our participation was 18 to 29. So in 2019, that was down to 16.4%. That had already started falling. The pandemic accelerated that in a huge way because we saw that, typically, that cohort of young adults did not like virtual at all, dropped down to a low of 12.8% in 2021 and we have been seeing an uptick back up. We're at 14.8 this year, which I think is encouraging that it continues to grow, that it's still not quite backward in 2019 and it's certainly not backward to where we were before that. But it is an encouraging sign that people are starting to come back. We want our race directors to look at different ways of thinking about reaching that group. We talked about email and I am a huge proponent of email and how important it is, but it may not be the right way to reach this group of runners. So you want to make sure that you're trying new things, trying new social media activities. But I also think that a really strong way to think about getting to this group is to think about the things that they are attracted to. And there's been a number of industry surveys put out that have said two things. One, this group really, really likes doing things with their friends and they want to be social. So making sure that you have opportunities to have your events be more social instead of just competitive - having groups and team options, providing social activities before and after the race for people to connect and really do things beyond just running together. And then the other one is that they really, really take seriously giving back to the community. So we know that most races already are either a charity or work with a charity. Really highlight the work the charity does and how the race supports the charity because we think that's a really strong way to get people to feel connected and to feel like they're running for more than just because they want to run.

Panos  37:39  
Yep, those are points that keep coming up. I should say, for people listening in, that we have two excellent episodes on both of these things. So we did an episode with the DC Half, we did a sort of like case study on the DC half, which I think they had, like, 30% of their participants being under 29 years of age, which is a really, really high number. And there's lots of tips in that episode around branding, images, presentation, and everything around how they made that event appeal more to a younger audience. And on the point about giving back and running for a cause, we have a great episode on partnering with charities, which is an important thing. Not every race does it. Many, many more races in the US do it than this side of the Atlantic. but it is a super important thing. And as you say, it seems to matter a lot to younger people. So it's a great way to do good, partner with a great charity partner that, by the way, can also help with volunteering and marketing and lots of other stuff, and get that young audience vote which is really important. Now, moving on to another very important and historically slightly contentious statistic around when people register, right? There's been so much hearsay throughout the pandemic - and as people and as things started normalising coming out of it - of all people register later or, like, lots of opinions anecdotally from race directors on the ground on shifting registration patterns and all kinds of stuff. Does the data bear that out? 

Johanna  39:23  
Not really. I can't tell you the number of times I've been asked, like, "When are people going to go back to registering on time?" And they don't believe me when I tell them, "Not that much has really changed." We've seen a consistent set of 24% to 26% of registrations on race week as long as we've been doing this report - since 2018 but also before that. That has been one of our most stable statistics - about a quarter of all registrations take place on event week and it was 24.8% this year. Yeah, there is a lot of variation when you look at distances. 

Panos  40:00  
Do you find that all that maybe all this talk about, "Oh, people don't register in time or whatever, they register later and stuff," just in some cases happens to be a misinterpretation in some cases of people just not registering, and people get the feeling that people will register later but then they sort of never do, unfortunately, in some cases? 

Johanna  40:23  
It could be. I don't know. I think every race director just wants people to register early so they know what they need to do and, unfortunately, people don't cooperate. I will say, like, while that race week number is certainly lower for longer distances, it's not actually much worse for even a 5K. It's only 27% for 5K's. But certainly shorter events do see a larger percentage of registrations in the last month. And so, maybe what feels really last minute is they perceive it to be, like, it's at the very last minute but it's really three weeks out, two weeks out, and not quite as late as they think in their head.

Panos  41:05  
Since we're on this point - we've had this question a couple of times in our Race Directors Hub group on Facebook and since I have you here - maybe you can give me your opinion from kind of the registration provider side of things. Some people ask, "When is a good time to open registrations?" And I guess my gut feel would be, the sooner the better, I guess. Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to open registrations as soon as you have a date, a location, and everything set up?

Johanna  41:35  
I think in general, that's probably true. The one thing that you can do is it's nice to have a big push and a big promotion for your initial registration opening. So when you look at when registrations take place, there usually is a pretty good uptick very early and then a little bit of a die down in the middle of the cycle, kind of uptick again, and then a big spike at the end. And I do think with your shortest distances, your 5K, 10K's, people aren't thinking that far in advance. And so, if you open a year in advance, people may not be ready to plan that far in advance and you might lose out on that opportunity to get a big "registration is open" push. So I don't know that there's necessarily a one-size-fits-all. But typically, I would say, certainly most events should be open three to four months in advance, if not before that. And for longer distances, I think the earlier the better. 

Panos  42:30  
I mean, there's a couple of races which actually send early registration emails, like, the week after the race or just very shortly after the race, and I can see that being very effective because you have the whole hype from the race, you've done it before. Like, I can see that perhaps having an impact in repeat participation, just sending you an email straight after the end of last year's race to register for next year's race.

Johanna  42:57  
Yeah, definitely. I think if you're gonna do a really early registration, it makes the most sense to do it close enough to your event that people are still excited about it and still remember exactly how much fun it was versus one month later when maybe that's died down and people aren't yet ready to start thinking about the next year.

Panos  43:15  
You also mentioned there, obviously, the very significant difference that exists between when people register for a 5K or, say, a marathon or an ultra, and the data shows that 50% of marathon registrations happen more than three months out. Whereas for a 5K, 63% of registrations happened in the last month. Now, in terms of what that means for your marketing cadence and your marketing calendar and what you're doing throughout the year, if you're directing a marathon versus a 5K, are there any significant differences there in terms of the tools you'd use or when you'd be doing things?

Johanna  43:59  
I think probably the tools not as much. But in terms of when you're wanting to focus your attention, you need to be ready to run right out the gate with longer events - triathlons or any sort of event that's going to require more training time and potentially more travel time - because you need people to commit early. 5K's, it never hurts to start promoting early but understand, in terms of your ordering schedules, that you're going to have a lot of people late. 

Panos  44:29  
Very, very important statistic as well from the report - pricing trends. So what's been happening with prices? We saw a really big hike for 2022 with all the inflation stuff, the disruption, logistics and, like, the whole craziness coming out of the pandemic. What's the picture in 2023?

Johanna  44:48  
Probably, unsurprisingly, prices continued to go up across basically all race distances. We saw increases from '22 to '23 and we're up compared to 2019 as well - a pretty significant amount. So it ranges from 11% up for 10K as compared to 2019. Half marathons are not quite as bad - you see about a 5% increase. But across the board, prices have increased. And I think one thing that I can note on that is, when we talk about average prices, that's looking at the kind of middle price if a race has multiple prices throughout its race registration cycle, though that price is looking at the middle price, the average price across all races. But when we look at the average low price where a race may open registration or the average high price or a race may close registration, it's up on both ends, too. So we're seeing throughout the entire race cycle that prices have increased. 

Panos  45:46  
Going back to the whole anecdotal stuff and what you guys have been hearing, do you find that perhaps race directors, particularly after the much larger price hikes of last year, are getting more comfortable with increasing prices? Because there was a big discussion coming out of the pandemic of some race directors, particularly people doing events for clubs and more like community type events. They were like, "Oh, no, we can't increase prices," although they were being squeezed on cost quite a lot from medals and from everything. They were quite hesitant in hiking prices. Still, there were some, like, double-digit price hikes in 2021. Are we perhaps in a place now where people feel more comfortable increasing prices like everyone else around us? Right? I mean, prices are going up every place around us.

Johanna  46:37  
Yeah, I mean, I think people just kind of had-- at some point, they noticed the reality is their costs are going up, not just in terms of their race cost, but everything is going up and their race is increasing are in line with that. So reality is if you want to put on an event, you have to be able to cover your costs. And so, I do think we heard less concern about it this year than last year despite the fact that prices continued to increase.

Panos  47:02  
One surprising thing, in terms of prices, is the number of price increases. So this is the number of times where a price would go from an early bird towards the race day price - how many of those price increases you're going to have, how many of those tiers you're going to have? And on average, races are generally having fewer of those price increases despite the fact that 26% of registrations happen around price increases. So you would think that being so effective in terms of driving registrations, people would do more of them, and still they do less. Any idea why that is? Is there any way to square that?

Johanna  47:48  
And this one is baffling to me because, yeah, we know that price increases work because people just need a reason to finish the registration now and to not put it off anymore. We saw a big decline around the pandemic. It's gotten a little bit better compared to last year but barely. It's around the same and I'm not entirely sure why we haven't seen those fully come back. The only thing that I can kind of think of is that races just sort of got out of the habit of their normal schedule of price increases. And so, they haven't quite reimplemented the same pricing strategies that they had before. But I'm constantly surprised by how few increases there are. A 5K average actually just a bit under one price increase. Marathons are at two price increases. Everything else is kind of in between there. But I think, if your race is open for six months, you certainly have time to increase your price more than twice. And what that does is obviously, it provides that extra motivation but it also gives you a little bit of buffer on the other end. Well, for people who may be really price sensitive, it means you can start the race a little bit low and you can give them a price that they are willing to pay to enter your race, even if it's a little bit below what you'd like to make on average. And then you'll be able to make up the difference for that because your procrastinators or super late race registrations, they're going to come in regardless of what your price is. So you can actually increase that price again at the very end and make those people who want to wait till race week pay a little bit more and pick up a little bit of slack for people who register really early for a low price.

Panos  49:23  
Well, there are a couple of trends that come up in the report year after year that are surprising. This is one of them. The other one that I always find super surprising but I've stopped talking about it - I mean, I didn't even have a question planned on this because it is what it is - is the fact that-- what is it like? 3% of races or thereabouts, they give out females specific T-shirt sizes and 53% of participants are females. Have you ever been able to basically comprehend that? I mean, I sort of get the whole logistics and stocking inventory and things, but wouldn't you think that more races should stock female T-shirts? 

Johanna  50:02  
So I have to believe that it's a little bit misleading and is not quite as bad as it seems because they can only track if people actually set the automated sizes in platform. And so maybe they're calling their shirts, like, a fitted shirt and a relaxed shirt, so they didn't set that as female sizing. Regardless, it's definitely not as high as-- it's much lower than I would think it should be. And one thing that I did this year is you can actually pull the percentage of female sizes with what size they actually ordered if the race was offering female sizes, and it was 30% of people purchased either a woman's small or woman's extra small. Many, many, many unisex shirts don't actually have an equivalent to that size. And so if 53% of your runners are women and 30% of those people don't have a shirt available that will fit them, they're never going to wear your race shirt. They're not going to display your race and advertise your race for you. So it feels like a real wasted opportunity. I know it is logistically more challenging and it can increase prices although, usually, with T-shirt vendors, they can mix and match men's and women's shirt sizes. But I think it certainly should be worth doing. 

Panos  51:20  
Absolutely, yeah, I completely agree. I mean, the number of times I speak to female friends of mine that have-- I mean, I don't use many of the race T-shirts I get because, many times, people, they're being really cheap on some of this stuff, which is really annoying. And then on top of it, to not have the right size, let alone the material being pretty crap, I mean, it's a total waste and it is a literal waste. 

Johanna  51:45  
Yeah, just don't give them out then. 

Panos  51:46  
Yeah, go plant a tree or something. And I mean, there are so many initiatives out there that do good instead of actually doing a race shirt. If you're gonna do a race T-shirt, do a nice one. Okay, last statistic for me that's quite important is the whole trend towards mobile registration. I know this is obviously very, very important from your point of view providing the technology and focusing on mobile registrations. The statistics specifically mentioned that 74% of race pageviews and 60% of transactions happen on mobile. So those two numbers, by the way, hint at another number, which is that basically mobile is slightly more tricky to convert. So more people view than convert on mobile. But overall, many more people view and convert on mobile. What does this imply for the race director - maybe the way they set up their website or something or the way they communicate or their marketing - the fact that so much of the economic activity and the registrations now happens on mobile?

Johanna  52:59  
So there are kind of, I guess, three things I would say from a marketing presentation of your events standpoint, please check your race websites. Your emails are sending everything on your phone. Race directors tend to work behind a laptop because it's a lot easier to set things up that way. But remember that that's not how most of your participants are seeing things. And so every time you're making changes to any sort of front-end information, you want to really, really, really make sure that you've looked at it on your phone and, if possible, on multiple phones to see how it is actually translating for your participants. Secondly, making sure that your registration path is as fast as possible because people have a little less patience on their phone. They don't want to be typing out answers to open-ended questions. So if you have questions that you're asking for the registration that you don't actually need, don't include them. Make sure that it's easy for people to get through registration. And if you have fast options for checkout, that certainly helps. We saw, since we put in Apple Pay, 31% of transactions on mobile-- transactions total, not just on mobile, sorry. 31% of transactions happened either from a saved credit card or from Apple Pay, and that suggests people really just want to check out and be done. They don't want to be sitting there typing in their credit card number. And finally, I would say, when we look particularly at that transaction number, I think everyone knows that, since COVID, QR codes have made a huge resurgence in a way that they never really did to begin with. People know what to do with them. When you're talking about race day registrations, there may be room for kiosks but people are so much more comfortable registering on their phone than they used to be. We really recommend leaving online registration open and having QR codes on site that people can just go on and register on their phones and then you don't have to actually have a volunteer they're helping with race day registrations. They're just managing it on their own and that number implies that if people know how to do that and they're okay doing that.

Panos  55:07  
So how does that work? Like, I mean, I think I get the gist of it. But basically, you're saying, you have a QR code on race day. Someone goes with a camera phone, they scan it, and then the registration journey begins on their phone. 

Johanna  55:21  
Yeah. And some races will have kiosks anyways but you can still have a sign that says, like, "Skip the line, just register on your phone." I've done that with a race that I've organised where we do an in-person pre-registration event. And before COVID, every year, I would have, like, five or six laptops and I'd have signs that said, "You can do this on your phone with the QR code," and three people would use their phones and everyone else would wait in lines for the laptops. Since then I only bring one laptop now because there's maybe one person who's, like, "Actually, I'd rather use the laptop." Everyone else is just like, "No, but I have my phone. Why wouldn't I just use my phone?" So you can just do the same thing on race day. And then your registration company just needs to integrate with your scoring software so your timer gets that information and then you're up and running. 

Panos  56:10  
Yeah, I mean, since we're on that topic, the whole race day registrations thing used to be super complicated back in the day, which is why people used to close registrations earlier, right? I mean, because then, you have to think about, "Okay, how am I gonna issue a bib?" Like, you have to get the person who registers into the timer's scoring system and all that stuff. Things have simplified a lot, haven't they, over the last few years, I guess, right? It seems that many more race directors are much more comfortable leaving registrations open until the very last minute, and it pays because lots of registrations happen on race day. 

Johanna  56:47  
Yeah, I think our real answer would be to talk to your timer because timing software exists across the board to be able to integrate with registration software, so your timer can immediately have the data that they need. There's no reason to be doing paper entries on race day now and there's no reason to be closing registration and losing out on those registrations. It's too easy to get people in now and to get that directly into your scoring software.

Panos  57:15  
Now, that has been everything for 2023. 2024 - we're already a couple of months in. You mentioned that early signs in terms of registrations and numbers and trends look really positive, which is great. I mean, just looking at the momentum, as you mentioned, from the last few months of 2023 and just, I guess, the general positive spirits in the industry, we're hoping it's going to be a record breaking year until-- at least in terms of what happened in 2019. What are you guys working on for 2024? What are sort of, like, the big priorities? I know now you have like a huge team and you're working on, like, a million things. But like, what are the top three things that you're working on for 2024? 

Johanna  57:58  
The ones I would call out would start with websites V2 should be out within a month or so. It's really, really cool, if you've been using the old website platform. You could make a new website that looks nice, but there are some certain limitations. This new website version is going to be very simple kind of drag-and-drop website. You could put any sort of component. You can pull data components - videos, donations, thermometers into every page of your website. I've been playing with it for an event and it's gonna make a huge difference, I think, for events that want to have a really comprehensive website that's all automatically tied back to their registration data. Memberships are going to be really exciting. That is in beta now. So we do have a handful of clubs that are using it and are moving over from the old ones at club platform to the new memberships platform. That platform has been an upgrade many years in the coming. We started it in 2020. And then, obviously, that got back-burnered. And so we finally have a big update there. It has access to the upgraded websites, upgraded email. It can tie in discounts to your races, to your ticket events, auto-renewals, a lot of really cool features there. And I think we're gonna see a lot of running clubs be a lot happier coming into that. And then also just some opportunities that also do memberships for different types of organisations. And I think, lastly, we have a lot of new stuff coming out on the ticketing side too. And I think one thing that we found in 2023 is there was a lot more crossover with our RunSignup and our ticket customers that I think we necessarily realised we were a little bit cautious about not wanting to promote tickets too much to our running customers and make them feel like we were not focused on the running industry. And again, kind of one of the things we learned as we've done webinars and roadshows is that we get to the end and people would have more questions about tickets. And so, I think what we found is there's a lot of opportunity that customers are seeing in terms of events that they're already doing tickets for track meets, for parking, or really simple ways that we've seen races implement this, or timers and partners. But also, like, a lot of those events work with a festival and they have a race portion there. The festival needs a solution for their tickets. The race is able to bring those over. And if they're a partner, that can integrate into their partner's share. But it also makes it easy for them to have the whole event kind of integrated together. And so, I think we'll continue to see some adoption there by customers, coming up.

Panos  1:00:44  
Actually, I think I saw a post coming out of your blog overnight or yesterday about this new clubs functionality also allowing cross-promotion with races, right? So maybe it would be easier for a race to offer a discount to a club. So then, they get more club runners. And you also have a directory of clubs that people can search through and find local clubs through this. I think that was what was in the post - that you can find local clubs, and you can reach out and offer discounts to local clubs from the RunSignup dashboard. 

Johanna  1:01:19  
Yeah, so that's always one of my favourite features within memberships. This version is much cleaner and nicer. But one of the things that we see races do really successfully sort of works both ways. One, the race can reach out to a club and say, "I'd like to offer your members discount." And that's a reason for the club to promote that race and for them to get more runners from their local community, which can be really good ambassadors for the race to begin with. And then, on the flip side, if a club is organising a race or even working really tightly with a race, the race can say, "There's a discount for this club. If you're not a member, would you like to join the Club?" And so it kind of promotes both ways. It gives someone the option to say, "Actually, I would like to join this club to get the discount and maybe I'll have a reason to go out and run on Thursday." And both entities are able to kind of grow and help each other through that kind of programme.

Panos  1:02:16  
Awesome. I really like all these kinds of, like, grassroots marketing stuff. They're very effective. And outside of RunSignup, I guess they're very hard to do manually because then you'll have to search clubs, find clubs, reach out, whereas you guys have the clubs and the races-- 

Johanna  1:02:32  
Offer discount codes. 

Panos  1:02:34  
Yeah, exactly. All in one place. And it's so much easier. Well, this has been really informative. Thank you very much. I think that's everything I had for today. By the way, we should say, before we get in touch with you, we should say that everyone can find the RaceTrends report on the RunSignup website. The website is But I think simply also gets you to the same place. There is a tab there that is, I think, knowledge base or something like that and there's a bunch of reports. And you can not only download the 2023 report, of course, absolutely for free, but also past reports, if you want to be comparing and looking at trends and stuff. So I think that goes back all the way to, like, maybe '17, '16, something like that on the website, which is really helpful. Now, to the person who puts all this together, how can people reach out to you if they need to take an interest in discussing some of this further? 

Johanna  1:03:26  
Yeah, absolutely. You can always email me. My email is It's a Or if you forget that, just email and they'll usually forward it to me.

Panos  1:03:41  
Awesome. And you're showing up at roadshow events as well? 

Johanna  1:03:44  
Yeah, so I was at Running USA. We did a roadshow there in January and I will be in St. Louis coming up on March 6.

Panos  1:03:51  
How much into the future do you announce this stuff? So basically, what does the pipeline of roadshows look like right now?

Johanna  1:03:59  
So we're doing one to two a month right now. I have a kind of tentative sketch of what the year looks like. And then about two months before the event, we start finalising that and, usually about six weeks to a month out, we'll actually announce it. Because they're afternoon events. We don't have a lot of people who are going to need to have it on their calendar six months in advance. So we do about a one to two month advance schedule on that. 

Panos  1:04:23  
Okay, I would strongly encourage listeners to show up at one of your local roadshows. And they don't have to be necessarily RunSignup customers, do they? Can anyone show up? 

Johanna  1:04:33  
Anyone is welcome. 

Panos  1:04:34  
Awesome. Great. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to come on for another great traditional RaceTrends episode. Hopefully, we'll be seeing and speaking more to each other before next year's episode. So thank you very much, Johanna. It's been really, really helpful.

Johanna  1:04:49  
Thank you, Panos. It was great to talk to you again.

Panos  1:04:51  
Well, thanks again. Thanks to everyone listening in. And we'll see you guys on our next podcast.

Panos  1:05:02  
I hope you enjoyed this episode on the 2023 RaceTrends report with my guest, RunSignup's Director of Marketing, Johanna Goode. You can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website, You can also share your questions about the numbers in today's podcast, registration trends or anything else in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub. If you enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to subscribe or leave a review on your favourite player and, also, do check out our podcast back-catalogue for more great content like this. Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races.

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