Running Events

Women’s Running Events: Concentrating on the Experience Can Maximize Returns

12 Dec, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon and 5K, in its nomination form for SDM’s Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism, noted the event, a boutique race, had been designed specifically to cater to one of the area’s most popular groups of travelers, participants in a girls’ getaway weekend.

Since the event hauled in $4.7 million for the local economy, there was no doubt organizers were onto something. And a recent report from Women’s Running Magazine bears that out, noting its readers spend, on average, $1,438 each year on running-related goods and services and an additional $1,155 on running-related travel. (Fun fact: to replace all her sports and health/fitness gear, the average Women’s Running reader would have to spend $3,233.)

The report, available free here, has a wealth of information planners can use when organizing an event for this valuable demographic.

The magazine’s Audience Survey also notes respondents said they run six to nine races per year with typical favorite distances being the 5K, half-marathon and 10K. Road racing was the most popular, with trail racing, well, trailing.

When not running, respondents stated that their other exercise options included walking, weight and/or strength training, yoga/Pilates, hiking, home workout videos and cycling — and they exercised indoors and outdoors for up to eight hours a week.

 Racing events specifically designed for women continue to be big draws nationwide, with many themed events, including the Diva’s Half Marathon and 5K Series and the Thelma and Louise Half Marathon in Moab, Utah (using the movie location for the famed duo’s last stand) being enormous draws for travel runners. Disney sponsors Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekends – which while not strictly women’s-only, do skew female.

The most successful women’s races, while competitive, also focus on the experience – something in keeping with the survey, which indicated that while a personal best was important, most women who race weren’t in it to win it. In short, they run for fun, which is why themed races, post-race parties and group activities also appeal to them.

The survey also found that women runners enjoy being connected to the greater running community, and that many participate in races to socialize and have fun. They’re also good at racking up the miles; respondents were found to travel for work three times more often than the typical American and two times more for pleasure than average.

So what is the take-away for event planners? Make your event desirable by focusing on the experience itself. Incorporate the element of fun. Create a theme. Encourage costumes. Invite spectators (the Disney runs have a ChEAR Squad registration option for family members and friends and includes a cowbell, grandstand seating, stadium blanket and bag). Incorporate some of the other exercise options the survey named, including yoga – a pre- or post-event session might be a popular option.

And lest you think this is a running-only phenom, think again. Other events have been working the women-centric angle. IronGirl Triathlon is one – and there are endless options out there for others. Field hockey, rugby, volleyball, softball, gymnastics, tennis, soccer, cheer, figure skating, horse shows and pickleball – as well as plenty of others – could all benefit from offering a women’s weekend centered around a tournament or competitive event – particularly if organizers reach out to alumni associations at schools that had prominent women’s teams.

And after that, all organizers need to do is concentrate on the take-away – what they want their participants to enjoy and remember. That, it turns out, can have huge pay-offs.

The Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon focused on creating an upscale experience for each participant and showcased local brands and boutique shops. Organizers noted, “Our local shop participants tell us it has become one of their busiest weekends. This event has also led to multiple return trips throughout the year by our participants with their entire families.”


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