This Is How Runners Feel About Returning to Races and Group Runs


On Friday the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) released results of a survey it conducted in recent weeks asking runners wide-ranging questions about what would make them feel most comfortable in returning to races and group runs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the many key findings? Runners will forego the usual perks and swag they get at events in exchange for more hand sanitizer, but don’t ask them to wear masks. 

The “Return to Running and Group Runs” survey included 10,634 participants, including running club leaders, event directors, running club members, coaches, and sponsors. Responses came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the challenges we face in the coming weeks and months,” the RRCA officials concluded, “but with over a 60-year history to draw from, the RRCA understands that the running community is extremely resilient, creative, giving, and dedicated. We will survive this crisis if we work together to safely return to group and event running.” 

Although runners are optimistic about the gradual return to their “normal” lives of racing and meeting up for group runs, the survey also shows they are cautious.

“The overarching theme from the survey is that runners are concerned about the public health officials’ recommendations for physical distancing guidelines followed by their community’s infection/death rates and trends,” according to the results. 

Among the other findings:

  • When public-health officials give the greenlight, 60 percent of respondents are comfortable with running with five or fewer people, 51 percent with 10 or fewer runners. The percentage of comfort level drops significantly with 20 or more people. The RRCA recommends that club leaders make plans to break down organized group runs according to pace, day, or location.
  • If public health officials lift restrictions, 53 percent of runners said they would participate in events in 2020—though 47 percent are unsure and 23 percent will not run in events this year.
  • Good news: 90 percent of survey participants plan to run in a race in 2021.
  • Post-pandemic, the most biggest concern of potential race participants is event cleaning and sanitation policies, which includes how water and aid stations are managed. Runners are concerned about the availability of hand washing and hand sanitizer at the start of a race and on the course. 
  • Finish-line festivals, expos, and medal distributions are ranked low in runner post-pandemic priorities. They want resources put toward cleaning measures and safety over food and other amenities.
  • Most of the open comments from runners focused on masks, with a consensus that people are unwilling to register for a race if a mask is required.
  • An estimated less than 1 percent (based on comments) don’t feel comfortable running in group until there is a vaccine.
  • Regarding the size of post-pandemic races, the bigger the field, the less comfortable runners feel participating in it. A line of demarcation stands out at 500 runners, with 53 percent of respondents feeling comfortable running in a race that size, as opposed to 61 percent comfortable with up to 100 runners. More than 1,000 runners? Just 34 percent are okay with that.

For full survey results as well as RRCA recommendations for race and club directors based on the findings, visit

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