Is the UK Ready to Race Again?

Last week we broke down the government's July 9th announcement and what it meant for mass participation sports events. In short, the next step for mass participation events is contingent on any guidelines published by RunBritain. On July 13th, British Triathlon announced that event organisers will be able to apply for a permit for events taking place after 25th July.

But while much of the focus is over what guidelines will be put out by the governing bodies, now that the central government has given the go-ahead, the crucial factor will be consumer sentiment. In short, how do people feel about returning to mass events?

Therefore, while we await England Athletics’ response, we reached out to our UK user base in an effort to gauge how they felt about returning to race day. Our simple questionnaire received over 1000 responses and produced a number of interesting insights which suggest that consumer confidence is higher than expected.

Key Findings

  • Almost ⅓ of people said they were ‘raring to go’ should races return
  • A clean, hygienic environment goes a long way to instilling consumer confidence
  • Many people are happy to attend mid-sized events, rather than just the smallest

Are people ready for races to return?

It is likely that we could see the return of races as early as August, so we asked our users how comfortable they would be attending an in-person event in the next month.

We measured results on a scale of 1 (not comfortable at all) to 5 (raring to go). In total, 31.2% of people answered that they would be ‘raring to go’ should races make an imminent return. You can see the full breakdown of the results below:

How comfortable participants are returning to races

Overall, there is a clear spread of answers. A significant percentage still indicate that they would not be comfortable at all attending a race in the next month. However, with the results averaging out at 3.3/5, it is evident that there is a willing pool of demand who would happily enter and participate in races, especially if the correct safety measures are implemented.

What are people looking for?

Clearly, whatever England Athletics announce, in-person events will look very different when they do return. We asked our users what they’d expect to see at a COVID safe event. We based the options below on the way US in-person events have been adhering to official guidelines while ensuring their participants feel safe.

safety precautions participants are expecting at races

With all of our suggestions receiving over 50% of votes, it’s clear that most people booking onto an event in today’s climate expect to see a concerted effort from event organisers to make the race environment safe and secure. Additionally, ‘other’ measures suggested include: socially distanced waiting area and bag check, provision of masks for before and after the event, smart route planning to avoid any bottlenecks, and quick dispersal at the finish-line.

The most complicated areas for organisers to think about are bib collection and the start-line. However, there are creative options to minimise contact at these stages. For example, you could run a self-service, pre-posted, or drive-through bib collection, while corral starts are another great way to make people feel safe from the get go. For more information on this, we took a deeper look at how to run a COVID safe event here.

Interestingly, 82% of people expect hand sanitising stations at the event. This indicates that the appearance of a clean and hygienic environment is of the highest importance, and the best way to inspire consumer confidence. Here are some simple ways you can do this:

  • All staff should wear masks and gloves
  • Plexi-glass screens should be used where appropriate
  • Hand sanitisation stations should be in abundance
  • Signage should be clear and instructive
  • Supply runners with event-themed masks or buffs in race packs

What size of event would people feel comfortable attending?

While event size will inevitably be influenced by governing body regulations, it’s important to ascertain what size of event participants would feel comfortable attending. This will enable event organisers to plan accordingly so that people are happy to attend their races.

what race size are participant comfortable competing in

Interestingly, the smallest proposed size of between 10 - 100 people, is not the most voted for. Rather, 34% of users indicate that they would feel comfortable at a slightly larger race of between 100 - 500 people and 21% at an even bigger race of between 500 - 1000 people.

This illustrates that consumer confidence is higher than initially anticipated, and if there are sufficient safety measures in place, then there is an appetite for people to enter and participate in mid-sized events.


What our survey shows is that the return of events would get a mixed reception. Undoubtedly, those who are less at risk will be more willing to get back out there and compete, and this is the audience who should initially be targeted.

Additionally, alongside ensuring race day itself is safe, event organisers’ communication in the lead-up to a race will be crucial for encouraging bookings. All refund policies and COVID safety plans should be published ahead of the event so that consumers have a sense of confidence when making their booking.

To help with this, we’re currently working on updating our pages to denote events verified as COVID safe. To gain this verification, event organisers need to submit a clear outline of the safety measures in place on race day. More on this to come later in the week.

Further Reading:

What the new government announcement means for mass participation events
Why now is the time to think about how to stage a Covid-secure event
British Triathlon - Return to play

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