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Study Finds Out Why Millennials Love To Run Races

A new study of millennials explains why they like racing so much.

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The runners catch many historic views of D.C., including the Washington Monument.

The results of a new study of millennials were announced this morning at the Running USA conference in Los Angeles. Because those born from 1980 to 2000 are a large contingent of today’s racers and will continue to be as they age, the running industry, including event organizers, are particularly interested in understanding their motivations.

“The results from this study will help shape business approaches, marketing and communications plans and hopefully, even the way our industry considers this generation,” says Rich Harshbarger, CEO of Running USA, which partnered with research firm Achieve and registration service RacePartner to conduct the study.

Of 15,631 survey participants from across the country, 73 percent were women. Overall, the study, which was conducted in the fall, found two main reasons millennials race:

  1. Health, whether to improve and maintain fitness
  2. Experience, aka to run in a new or unique environment

“Two-thirds of respondents report being frequent or ‘fitness’ runners, indicating they run to maintain or increase their health and wellbeing,” the study explains. A majority also has recently started running (48 percent in the past five years and 28 percent in the past 10) and become dedicated: 76 percent run throughout the year when not training for an event.

In terms of which races are the most appealing, half marathons and 5Ks were the most popular distances completed in the prior year. Looking ahead, these are the most popular wish-list races: half marathon (82 percent), 10K (66 percent), 5K (61 percent), fun runs/untimed runs (46 percent).

“When making a decision to register and participate in a running event,” the report explains, “most look at the distance/length, cost and physical challenge of the race. Experientially, they are interested in events with quality branded items or giveaways (‘swag’ such as T-shirts, bags, etc.), on-course entertainment, post-event parties and the ability to participate with friends.”

Millennials also favor well-known races and want to pay between $26 and $50 to register. Though social media is most often the way respondents learn about events, they aren’t interested in digital training opportunities. They do appreciate charitable tie-ins with racing, but it’s not a primary motivation, and they want their entry fees to go toward a cause as opposed to fundraising. They are also very interested in volunteering at races, especially if there are incentives.

As the Running USA Industry Conference concludes today in LA, the event organizers have new information to influence decisions on when, where, how and why we’ll all be racing. For the complete results of the study and more information, visit