Why a Hybrid Race Model May be Best for Your Event in Spring 2021

The spring racing season is looming, have you decided what your event is going to look like yet? We’ve been doing some research and the spring 2021 racing season is shaping up to be quite the combination of in-person, virtual, and postponed events.

Today we’re looking at one popular new event structure that could be right for you: the hybrid model. Like it sounds, the hybrid model offers the best of both worlds, it’s not all virtual or all in-person, but a little bit of both! 

So how do you know if a hybrid race model is best for your event in spring 2021?

Providing two participation types can present additional logistic challenges, so before you dive in to offering a hybrid event, you’ll want to check a few boxes:

  • Numbers -- Without enough participants, the extra work to set up a virtual or in-person option just isn’t worth it. We’d recommend your event have a history of at least 250 runners in 2019 or earlier.
  • Virtual History -- The likelihood of a virtual option being successful for your event is multiplied by a strong history with virtual participation. If your event was able to pivot to a virtual option in 2020, keep it around for 2021, and maybe beyond!
  • Community Interest -- Poll members of your local racing community or previous racers to gauge potential interest in both in-person and virtual options. Bonus points if you’ve received any direct communication asking about your race’s plans for spring.

If you can check at least two of the above, chances are your race is set up for success with the hybrid event model.

Still need some convincing? Here’s a few of our clients that have seen success offering in-person and virtual options for participants both in the fall of 2020 and the current spring 2021 seasons:


  • Equinox Half Marathon - With a set timeframe every year, the Equinox Half Marathon isn’t letting COVID-19 slow it down. The spring equinox event set for March 21, 2021 will hold both in-person and virtual races.
  • The Run Denver Series - This series of 5 events “promises a fun time through those winter months” with races from December through March. All races have offered capped in-person registration along with a virtual option.
  • The Big Beach Marathon was held the last weekend of January in North Carolina with capped in-person registration, start waves of 100, and a virtual option.

We also put together a spring 2021 endurance event forecast with details on how different sized events are approaching the upcoming season so you can feel confident planning yours.

You’ve decided a hybrid, in-person and virtual race is right for you, what’s next? 

When it comes to the in-person part of your race, there’s all the usual items like permits and sponsors but you’ll likely want to implement some additional changes to support social distancing. In-person events are capping registration numbers, implementing smaller waved starts, requiring face coverings, and eliminating pre and post-race gatherings. We made this handy infographic with guidelines for safer in-person events back in the fall.

As with all of our recommendations, we’re looking at what’s happening in the industry right now and taking the typical restrictions into account, but always check your local mandates and attempt to forecast ahead for changes. Check out our interview with HAL co-owner, Lonnie Sommers, for a more in-depth look at how race directors are planning around COVID-19.

Now, what about the virtual part? If your race went virtual in 2020, you’ve got this(!) but if you haven’t offered a virtual option before, it may sound daunting. Don’t overthink it, registration works the same and with the power of the internet, your virtual participants can have an equally awesome time. For your virtual runners, keep as much of the in-person experience as possible by including race bibs and event swag (Boulder Bibs can help you with digital race bibs). Then, bring back the community feel with apps to enhance your virtual race event. Social media groups and hashtags are another great way to bring virtual participants together, no matter their location.


Regardless of how you approach the spring season, we’re excited for where endurance sports events are headed in 2021, the outlook sure is brighter than 2020!

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