People Are Running, But They Are Not Ready for Groups

With gyms temporarily closed, people are turning to running to stay in shape. But when large gatherings are once again permitted, there’s no guarantee they’ll be lining up to participate in group runs.

The Road Runners Club of America conducted its “Return to Running Events and Group Runs” survey, which received 10,634 responses from April 21 to May 6, to “get an understanding about customer attitudes as it relates to return to running in organized group runs and in-person running events.” Included in the findings is people’s willingness to participate in larger group runs when they are permitted.

According to the survey, 60.7% of the people who responded said they would be comfortable running with five or fewer people, and 51.4% would be comfortable with 10 or fewer runners.

However, there is a roughly 20% drop when the number climbs to groups of 20. The survey showed that 31.8% of people would be comfortable in groups of 11-20 people. And when that number hits 50 or more, only 19.6% of respondents said they would be comfortable.

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The survey also revealed people’s confidence in group run events for not only the rest of this year but also further into the future. According to the findings, 53% of people who responded admitted they would participate in 2020 if they were permitted by public health officials, and that number jumps to 90% for 2021 and beyond.

With stores closed temporarily due to the forced isolation, top brands in the market have directed consumers to support local specialty run retailers, which often are the organizers of running groups.

Brooks, for instance, offered suggestions on social media in March on how to support these shops, such as finding a store nearby for curbside pickup or same-day delivery, giving five-star reviews to these businesses and buying gift certificates to use at a later date.

Brooks CEO Jim Weber explained to FN why it’s more important than ever to support specialty run retailers. “We’re firm believers that the local running shop is not going away,” Weber said. “They’re community stores that are engaged and connected and create their own traffic, but right now they’re struggling to do commerce with their stores closed.”

Despite these efforts and people’s increased interest in running, experts haven’t seen an impact on sales. On March 31, The NPD Group senior sports industry adviser Matt Powell stated running shoe sales were down by nearly 70% the week ending March 21, and on April 3, the expert revealed sales declined mid-70% for the fourth week of March.

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