The New Runner Experience

The alarm goes off. She knows she should get up and get going. But her legs are sore. She’s asking herself, “Why did I start running again?” As she laces up her shoes more questions race through her mind – “Are these making me sore? Are they right for running? How far should I even be running?” But she heads out the door anyhow – she needs something to take her mind off the pandemic and to burn off some of her anxiety before the kids are up.

This is the experience of today’s new runner. Nearly one-in-five (17%) Americans count themselves as one of the ‘new’ runners in the 2020 COVID-driven running boom. These runners are a mix of Gen Z, Millennials and Gen Xers, a large percentage are parents, and many are affluent (20% of those with HHI over $100K are part of this new runner cohort.) In fact, nearly half (47%) of all ‘runners’ classify themselves as ‘new’ vs ‘experienced’.

Most of them are looking for both physical and mental benefits from their new running habit. They want to improve physical health, sure, but they are also looking for ways to relieve anxiety/stress and to take their mind of the pandemic – after all, 51% of Americans are fearful of dying from COVID-19. Many also see running as a personal challenge.

And a challenge it is. New runners are struggling with staying motivated, battling muscle fatigue and soreness and lack training knowledge and information. They are also more likely than more experienced runners to experience boredom while running and are more likely to say that they don’t have the appropriate shoes or attire.

These are gaps that fitness brands are well-poised to address, offering an opportunity to capture this new audience of potential customers.  Americans are willing to spend more on the things they want during the pandemic – and a large portion of these runners have disposable income. In fact, 1-in-5 new runners who make $100K+ say they don’t have appropriate shoes.

Despite challenges – most new runners are committed to running in the long term.

How can you design a better experience for these new runners to build long-term loyalty toward your brand?
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