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  • Gary Roethenbaugh

Latest athlete motivations study indicates desire for return to racing

Updated: May 10, 2021

At MultiSport Research we're pleased to release summary findings from a new and updated study into athlete motivations during the current Covid-19 crisis. This tracks sentiment in January 2021, comparing with previous studies undertaken in April and June 2020.

The research has been provided free of charge to industry stakeholders in order to help them plan during these challenging times.

Gary Roethenbaugh, Managing Director at MultiSport Research, said “Firstly, once again, a big thank you to all athletes who gave up their time, as well as to the race directors and other industry stakeholders who helped to put the word out on the athlete survey.

“These remain challenging times with much uncertainty for the industry. As a backdrop, it is though encouraging to see a clear willingness from athletes to return to racing.”

Summary findings from the January 2021 Endurance Sport Athlete Motivations Study include:

  • A desire to return to racing is coming through from respondents, even with some concern around safety at events.

  • Staggered race starts, aid station hygiene & distancing are seen as key areas to help athletes feel safe.

  • Levels of worry about the health impacts of Covid-19 dropped in June 2020, but have risen back to April 2020 levels in the latest January 2021 survey. Financial concerns about coronavirus have, however, dropped steadily.

  • 98% of athletes see their training regime as being important for their health & wellbeing.

  • 81% see maintaining a training regime as being important for event goals this year.

  • 83% expect to race this year; of this 68% expect to race by spring/summer 2021. A smaller proportion have already returned to racing.

  • National events are currently much more preferred than international event travel. 32% of athletes favour local/national events that involve travelling less than 30 miles. A notable 35% are willing to travel more than 100 miles for a national event. For international event travel, this resonates with less than 10% of respondents.

  • 70% of athletes appear willing to tolerate some form of price rise to keep events viable in 2021. Around 30% are unsure, or unwilling to accept a price rise.

  • Virtual events have resonated with athletes. 60% of respondents have participated in a virtual run event during lockdown. 46% have participated in a virtual bike event.

  • 47% have reduced their expenditure on endurance sport gear due to the pandemic and a reduction in opportunities to race. Post Covid, 27% expect to increase on normal gear spending levels. 53% expect their endurance gear spending to return to normal levels.

Gary Roethenbaugh added, “The importance of maintaining a training regime has come through very strongly from athletes. This covers both a health & wellbeing aspect, as well as for building fitness – in anticipation of a race season of some sort in 2021.

“Not surprisingly, there is still caution in the air as the pandemic shows no sign of abating. Yet, there is a sense that athletes are keen to get back to racing as soon as restrictions allow. This is in order to support local events, and in-turn get back to the fun and euphoria that racing can provide.”

The research was undertaken via an athlete survey. This went live on went live on January 7, 2021 and closed on February 1, 2021. In total, there were 2616 responses across all countries (with 1618 in the USA). The survey covered a number of areas, including:

  • Athletes’ current vs typical participation in endurance sport

  • Increase or decrease in activity due to social distancing

  • Levels of concern about Covid-19

  • Attitudes to training & rescheduled events

  • Views on race cancellations

  • Virtual racing

  • Gear expenditure

  • Athlete types, levels of experience & training hours

  • Summary demographics

  • Attitudes to training & coaching services

  • Attitudes to a safe return to racing, with selected athlete comments

  • Views on increased entry fees & race travel distances

  • January 2021 vs April 2020 survey index to compare shifts in sentiment

  • June 2020 vs April 2020 survey index

MultiSport Research is planning an update to the research in order to track sentiment as the Covid-19 crisis evolves. To participate in the research or find out more, please get in touch with us directly.



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