What will the post pandemic running world look like?
Chris Broadbent says the post-pandemic running world will be different; he's just not sure how.
Participation in running, walking and cycling is booming through the pandemic, according to numerous reports. With lockdown, social-distancing rules and restrictions on group gatherings effectively decimating team sports and contact sports from elite level to grass roots, activities that can operate outside these guidelines have flourished.
According to mobile operator EE, use of popular apps to map running, walking and cycling has spiked in lockdown. Strava use has tripled and MapMyRun has doubled.
Garmin also has some startling statistics to report across Europe. During April, there were around 50 per cent more outdoor runs recorded in the UK than in March. In Germany, there was a remarkable 90 per cent more outdoor runs recorded on the platform in mid-April than the start of February. So, what will this mean in the long-term for running?
New activity habits are forming. With other sports struggling to work around restrictions, some of which will be phased out gradually, running is likely attracting a new wave of regular participants from other activities.
But what will it mean for the running infrastructure? Before the pandemic, running events and running clubs were on a seemingly continuous growth curve. Now the isolation created by the pandemic has unwittingly nurtured a more independent approach among runners.
Without being able to rely upon events and clubs for their running kicks, runners have been forced to explore their own communities for routes and better use technology to plan, monitor and review activities. With the rise of the virtual run, they have also been able to get any competitive appetite sated online. Beyond Covod-19, there will also be a likely significant economic hit.
Will runners be as willing to pay £40-£50 for a half marathon or marathon? Will they still see real value in club membership or affiliations? If people are hit hard, they will be making more stringent choices with all their spending.
There are some undoubted positives for running, but like the rest of the world, it will have to face a new normal post-pandemic.