2020--the year we maybe wish we could forget--held so much promise for the endurance event industry. Registration numbers were up and things were looking good, all until March when COVID-19 shut down life as we knew it and forced events across the country to cancel at a moment’s notice.
After a few weeks, when it became clear that we wouldn’t be able to gather in groups for quite some time, virtual events starting popping up left and right. Existing events postponed, then went virtual, and brand new virtual events were created, many with a focus on fundraising for COVID-19 relief.
Come Fall, some smaller races were able to offer combination events with both in-person and virtual options for participants, but the large runs continued to cancel and postpone to a later, safer date.
Now that 2021 has arrived, and another spring race season is just around the corner, how are events approaching the months to come?
In our research, we found that event size is the greatest predictor of spring event styles.
Large-scale races, with 10,000+ participants, are almost universally postponed or canceled:
- The Boston Marathon was postponed, the race has been scheduled with "cautious optimism" for October 11, 2021
- The LA Marathon has was originally rescheduled from March to May but has since been pushed back again with plans now for a fall event
- BOLDERBoulder 10K in Colorado is usually held on Memorial Day weekend, as of writing this post there are no announcements about the 2021 event
- Bay to Breakers in California is usually held in May but has been postponed until August
- The Chattanooga Marathon in Illinois was rescheduled from March to November
Small to medium races with up to 2,000 participants are approaching spring in a variety of ways:
- The Denver Century Ride, usually held in June on Father’s day weekend, has been moved to the end of September for 2021
- The entire Run Denver Series is currently putting on in-person events with smaller wave starts and the option for virtual participation
- Alaska’s Shamrock Shuffle is scheduled for an in-person race on March 13th with wave starts and they are also offering a virtual option
- The Big Beach Marathon is being held the last weekend of January in North Carolina with capped in-person registration, start waves of 100 and a virtual option
With event plans spanning the gamut, here are our key takeaways for a successful spring racing season:
Virtual Remains King
Whether your event is going 100% virtual or not, for 2021 we recommend including a virtual option for individuals who want to participate but aren’t comfortable with a group setting just yet.
Really take advantage of the opportunities that virtual races provide. You can reach a far larger audience with a virtual event because participation isn’t limited by time, date, or location!
Virtual events focused on fundraising were very successful in 2020 and we’re forecasting the same for 2021. After a hugely successful ‘Virtual America’s Turkey Trot,’ with over $130,000 delivered to participating organizations, Enmotive is launching another first-year virtual event, America’s Shamrock Run, continuing to focus on giving back during tough times.
Another fun idea for virtual events is to harness our need for community and connection. BOLDERBoulder for example is currently promoting an all-new ‘Heart of Bold’ virtual event in February to encourage 7 workouts and 7 acts of random kindness around Valentine’s Day.
Small Races, Big Hopes
Events with under 1,000-2,000 participants are more likely to swing in-person events early in 2021. Our interview with Lonnie Somers and this infographic with guidelines for safer in-person events are great resources to start with, and don’t forget to check all your local mandates and guidelines.
Without the crowds, cheering spectators, and after race celebrations, swag is proving to be just as important as ever. Participant medals, t-shirts, buffs, and even dog collars, we’ve seen a lot of really cool race swag popping up in 2020, and we don’t expect it to slow down any time soon! Race bibs, medals, and other event swag remain a key part of the experience whether you’re running virtually or in-person.