Answer: You should never close registration.
Registration Timeline by Race Distance
Our 2017 look at when runners register showed a familiar curve to that of 2016: an early spike leading to a drop and a plateau, followed by another sharp climb.
There is some clear differentiation based on race distance – most notably, the early registration humps on 10k’s, and especially 5k’s, are much smaller and later than those seen in longer distances (half marathons & marathons). On the flip side, shorter events can get up to 39% of their registrations on race week, while procrastinators make up a more modest 8-11% of registrations for half and full marathons.
Regardless of the nuanced differences between distances, there are three clear points in the timeline that appear to be of significant value for all races:
- Early Registrations: Long distances see 28-35% of registrations more that 120 days before the race. Those longer distances are also associated with longer training cycles and more travel to the race, and shorter races will likely never match them on early registrations. However, shorter distances can still learn lessons about the potential for early registrations:
- Open registration early!
- Include price incentives for early registration
- Target new runners who may benefit from the same longer preparation cycle that captures long-distance runners
- Mid-Cycle Spike: Another increase in registrations is seen in the range of 60-15 days prior to the race. Don’t neglect your potential participants during this long stretch:
- Include strong calls to action – a late price increase, a coupon code, or special swag for pre-registrants – and promote them frequently via email and social media
- Race Week Craze: Race directors may hate late registrations, but runners love them. Events are increasingly impacted by a culture of procrastination – runners are waiting for weather forecasts and want to know exactly how they feel and what else they have planned for the weekend before they commit. Rather than bemoaning the golden days of pre-registration, prepare your event to maximize your participation:
- Keep online registration open up to – or even through – RaceDay morning. Talk to your timer about syncing late registrants with their timing software.
- Invest in RaceDay technology like tablets and chromebooks for SignUp kiosks to get more people signed up on race morning – quickly, and with accurate information.
- Include a QR code and link for runners to register on their phones as the arrive, skipping any lines for a SignUp kiosk.
Full Registration Timeline Data:
Registration Timeline by Year
Looking at how the registration timeline data has shifted overall, it’s clear that there is a trend towards an increasing number of race week registrations:
Note that some of the drastic drop in the 90+ day range can likely be attributed to a large fun run series that moved off of RunSignUp in 2017 that drew a significant number of early registrations.
Takeaway: Lock runners in whenever you can get them. Take advantage of the natural bookends – early registrations + race week registration – by making those registration periods as easy and as incentivized as possible, and create calls to action to drive the momentum through the long mid-cycle stretch.
Check out the full RaceTrends Report anytime for more insights into the endurance landscape: