What the Running Boom Pop Means for Races

In a recent New York Times article “The Running Boom Has Popped”, Jen Miller says

“Road races have hit the wall. The number of finishers in events in the United States has fallen from a peak of about 19 million in 2013 to just over 17 million in 2016.”

In the RunSignUp Trends Report analyzing trends from 2015-2016 of races, we found a flattening of registrations for races, with the number of registrations going up only 0.5%:

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Before getting too depressed, realize the RunningUSA numbers are based on finisher data that is incomplete, and an increasing number of events are less about the finish times and more about fun and community or charity activities. And there are still tens of millions of people participating in events across the country.

So What’s Race Director to Do?

In short, focus on what happens before and after registration – Promoting your race, and making Race Day a great experience.

RunSignUp knows that race directors have a tough job, and most are volunteers or part time. So we have been building more automated tools that help you promote your event and make race day special. Here are some of the best things you can do that will be quick and easy to set up, and bring more people to your race:

Automated Emails – Simply turn on the Automated Emails for Incomplete Registration and Price Increase. The system will take care of the rest for you – sending emails to people who did not complete registration, and to send custom emails to past participants before price increases.

Referral Rewards – Our recommendation is to set this up to give participants their registration fee back if they get 5 friends to sign up. Races doing this get over 10% of their registrations from the referral program and have an ROI of over 1,000%. And the RunSignUp system does everything else for you.

Facebook Page – Make sure you are integrated with your Facebook page and have set up good sharing options. This way your referrers will be even more powerful getting your race brand exposure. And for advanced Facebook advertisers, use our Facebook Custom Audience feature.

Race Day Notifications – Make sure your timer turns on automatic results notifications so participants get txt alerts of their results seconds after they cross the finish line.

RaceDay Photos – Get a photographer (or ask your timer to provide one!) and get your photos uploaded fast after the race. We automatically tag bib numbers so participants and spectators can enjoy their own pictures – and turn on the ability for them to add their own tags. This can be done very cheaply, and people love photos – at one race of 800 people there were over 34,000 photo views in the 2 days after the race.

RaceJoy – Here is a quote from a recent participant: “Racejoy was amazing. My brother out in Florida watched the “blue spot” go around the screen and listened to a cow bell the entire way and it was so special for him and me. I love it and I will always use RaceJoy! And by the way I’m 71 years old, and I figured it out myself, and that’s saying something. Which means the technology was not complicated and very user-friendly.”

Need more ideas? Feel free to talk with our team to discuss your particular race and what might work for your situation. We have hundreds of features that you have at your fingertips in your RunSignUp bag of tricks – make use of them so your race is not only a survivor in the bubble pop, but a true success.

Lessons for Races and RunSignUp from Forbes 100 Essays


The 100th Anniversary edition of Forbes contained a section with short quotes or essays from 100 of the best business minds. There are a number of quotes that are thought provoking for races and for RunSignUp. Here are the highlights we took from the list.

For Races & RunSignUp

“Over the next few years, as the cost of making something intelligent approaches zero, companies (read races and RunSignUp) will succeed or fail based on their ability to translate data, including historical data, into insights and actions and products and services in real time.” Michael Dell.

“Every business is a living document, an algorithm that needs to be improved.” – Billy Beane.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. What makes the difference is the execution of the idea.” Craig Venter.

“I use what I call the “Mother test”. If your mother calls you and tells you that she is proud of what you are doing, that’s probably a good indication.” David Rubenstein.

“With great companies, the passage of time is a major positive.” Peter Lynch.

“Find a good business with a durable, competitive advantage, run by able and honest people, and available at a price that makes sense.” Warren Buffet.

“Business was originated to produce happiness, not to pile up millions.” B.C. Forbes, recounted by Steve Forbes in the opening to this magazine edition.

Why RunSignup and Races are Successful

“We’re in the midst of a gigantic transition, where customers have incredible power as a result of transparency and word of mouth. It used to be that if you made a customer happy, they would tell five friends. Now with the megaphone of the internet, whether online customer reviews or social media, they can tell 5,000 friends. In the old days an inferior product could prevail in the marketplace with superior marketing. Today customers can tell whether product and service is good because there is so much transparency. They can compare it to others very easily, and then they can tell their friends – the customers will do part of the heavy lifting, marketing-wise. Rather than inferior product shouting louder, we have sort of a product meritocracy. It’s very good for customers, it’s very good for the companies that embrace it – and it’s very good for society.Jeff Bezos.

Thank you to our customers for being the megaphone for RunSignUp!

RunSignUp Q3 2017 Results

We’ve started to provide a a quarterly update this year on how things are going with RunSignUp (Q1, Q2 and 2016). The good news is that more races, timing companies, running stores and runners continue to recommend us.

For us, the highlight of Q3 was our annual RunSignUp Symposium where more than 200 race directors and timers came together to learn from each other and share their ideas with us. We are happy so many people find value in this great event, making it the second largest industry gathering to RunningUSA.

One of the key stats we follow is the number of races that process more than 3 transactions with us. We think we now have the largest number of races using RunSignUp of any registration provider in the US. Our numbers were great for Q3 with 21% growth (on a very large number of races!):

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Our bottom line has also faired well, with increased gross profit and lower legal fees resulting in a very solid Q3 as compared with last year. This enabled us to expand our User Experience Team with Meredith Klein and Darren Wambolt joining us in Q3.

This growth is impressive despite what you may have heard from one of our competitors even after 1N3/URun settled their lawsuit with Active in December. 1N3 was our largest customer last year, so it had an impact on our numbers especially, in Q1, less in Q2 and less in Q3. We look forward to not keeping track of those comparisons next year.

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The loss of 1N3 impacts our registration count, but financially, we are actually way ahead of last year. Being able to replace nearly a million registrations shows the amount of viral good will we have from our customers recommending us to new races (you can calculate this from the recent acquisition of 1N3, now called Cool Events, by Sack Lunch Events and their average ticket price of $15-30).

Gross Profit is actually the most important since it is how we pay our people and Amazon costs and for the year we are up. Because of their volume, 1N3 had a higher discount than many smaller races. We have been successful this year replacing their lost volume with more profitable races. More importantly, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees supporting 1N3 last year – and that cost is gone. So our net profit is looking very healthy, which is allowing us to do some expansion of our development team. In addition, the 1N3 races had a high amount of customer support including above average chargebacks and participant support requests. This means we have fewer customer service issues to deal with and more time to improve the core offering.

lifecycle0220The best news is that we continue to make great progress in enhancing our product offering for our customers. We have a very broad platform for races, helping them with their entire race lifecycle. Some of the great work we are doing:

Promotion. Our Analytics and Race Dashboard have made some huge strides over the past quarter, with a bunch more planned in Q4. We have also begun to expose the source of registrations. Right now it is just email, but it will expand considerably over the next quarter to include things like Facebook ads and websites. We also just released an exciting tool for Facebook Custom Audiences – which many customers report is the most effective advertising tool available to them today.

Registration. We made a major improvement to help races meet Child Privacy laws and standards. We have also steady improved the User Experience, but more on that later.

Fundraising. We’ve made a bunch of improvements to our Fundraising platform to make it simpler and improve reporting. We also introduced a “No SignUp” option that allows charities to just focus on donations.

Race Day. Use of our Photo platform continues to accelerate as races discover the great connection they can make with their participants with an integrated platform. But the most exciting and challenging work we are doing is to create the next generation of The Race Director, and really a new model for the industry with RaceDay Scoring. We are still in Alpha, but hope to release Beta this year with Production release in early 2018.

CRM. This is a new and old focus area for us. By providing races with a single database they can use throughout their race lifecycle, we have a nice single database of everyone that a race touches, with lots of interesting information about them. It is a central reason why races now use our integrated Email System to send 8 Million emails per month – to target specific customers in a highly automated way.

User Experience Manifesto Update. Hopefully you know about our User Experience Manifesto. Meredith and Darren joined us this past quarter to help bring even more focus and expertise and passion to this endeavor. We got a ton done in Q3, such as the Race Analytics Dashboard, Header Improvements, Profiles, COPPA, Results, Sponsor Display, and a whole bunch of things to improve our underlying UX infrastructure. And wait until you see what we have in store for you over the next 2 quarters – new registration, new Race Websites, new RunSignUp.com website, restructuring and simplifying the Race Dashboard, and a bunch of CRM work to bring the data to races that can make the difference.

Unfortunately, Active continues the suits against their former customers and employees, and continues a second suit against RunSignUp for races who used the term “Couch to 5K” even after their acquisition by Global Payments. The good news is we have the resources and the cash flow to pay the roughly $500K in legal fees per year this is costing us to defend ourselves and still continue to grow.  If Active’s motivation is to slow down the technology advancements we are making, or the growth of the RunSignUp Community it is not working.

As always, thank you to our customers. Your support is really important to continuing the positive cycle we have going.

Why Races Use RunSignUp Email

email-imageWith such great, well established email vendors like Mailchimp and Constant Contact available, why are more and more races turning to the RunSignUp Email system?


Our email system is free. Constant Contact costs $500 per year for up to 2,500 contacts and MailChimp costs $300+ per year for up to 2,500 contacts. They include some nice features with many pre-made templates, a much better editor than RunSignUp, nice looking reports, and integration to enterprise CRM systems like Salesforce. The question is whether those features are worth it compared with a free system? And for many races (we send over 8 Million emails per month), the answer is no.

lifecycle0220Emails with Your Race Data – Simple

RunSignUp keeps all of your race data together in a single CRM database that is tuned specifically for races. Want to send an email that includes people’s bib numbers on an individual email basis – simple. Want to send email notifications of results when people finish a race – simple. Want to send different emails to last year’s participants depending on if they signed up already – simple. Want to have an email go out automatically after people do not complete a registration – simple. Want to send emails to everyone when there is a price increase – simple.

All those examples are made simple because of a tightly integrated database of participant information that is made for races.

Simple Automated Emails

With a simple click, race directors can turn on common automated emails to announce price increases or to remind people who did not complete their registrations.

Simple Race Specific Analytics

Since one of the most common things race directors send emails for is to get registrations, we now give you a simple way of viewing and tracking the effectiveness of your emails by showing Page Views and # of Registrations.

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Simple Branded Emails

While we do not have a zillion templates like the big email vendors, we do offer a simple way to take your website logo and banner, as well as default SignUp and Donate calls to actions and put them into a nice format – and we make that simple.


And if you have some HTML chops, you can do lots of customization, save it and then reuse it for future emails from the race, the charities and from fundraisers. Yes – you can put the power of our email system into your fundraiser and captain hands.

Simple Sponsor Promotion

There is an option to include sponsor logos and links on each email that is sent – simple. And there is a simple Sponsor Email option that sends out Sponsor Offers to all participants automatically before and after your race.

Simple (and Advanced) Domain Control

We give you great options to get high deliverability rates. By default all emails sent from RunSignUp are from our highly rated domain with advanced things like DKIM that assure receiving email domains do not block it as spam. We offer a very simple “Reply To” option, so when participants hit reply their email goes to the one you set. We also offer a full “White Label” option for more advanced users.

Why We Built Our Own Email System

Simple – we wanted to make life easier for Race Directors. Less time doing email, better results that increase participation in your events and make your participants happy, with analytics that track the information you care about.

Email Analytics for Registrations

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 5.53.28 PMWe have expanded our RunSignUp Analytics Platform to show registrations tied to each email. This will show you in detail how each email you send, and each automated email that is sent (price increases and incomplete registrations for example) performs. This type of analysis will be extended over the coming months to also include transaction $ as well as tracking for other sources like referrals and Facebook Ads. The integrated RunSignUp Analytics combined with the integrated Email system we offer is a powerful combination and begins to show the benefits of a fully integrated marketing platform built specifically for races.

Note: Data only shows for the last month or so since that is how long we have been collecting it. We are of course saving all data now, so next year you will be able to do year over year comparisons.

The example below shows 2 emails sent (the red line) generating 1,952 PageViews and 146 Registrations:

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The table under the graph shows each individual email and the results of that email. In this example, the first email sent on 9/25 was sent to 5,620 people and has generated 84 registrations. Looking at the graph you can see about 40 registrations happened on 9/25, 37 happened on 9/26 and perhaps another 10-15 came from this email on 9/27. But note a second email was sent on 9/27 and that generated 44 registrations the same day. A lesson from this example is that follow up emails with slightly different messages can be effective (see the two different subject lines with the second email saying “Signup now”.

Let’s look at another example for insights into Automated Emails (emails the system can send out for a race without any intervention). This is a Price Increase Email:

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In the example above, the race used the Automated Price Increase email. This race had 260 registrations the 3 days before their price increase on 8/31, and 85 of those came from the email – or 33%. While races have always enjoyed the fact RunSignUp gives them automated emails that get automatically segmented by whether a person has signed up or not, the new analytics provides insight into the true value of turning on these features.

Let’s look at another Automated Email – Incomplete Registrations:

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Over the past 7 days this large race had 57 automated emails sent, which resulted in 138 pageviews and 12 registrations. While that was only 3% of their total registrations during that time period, that 3% (in line with other races we have seen) helps justify the cost of RunSignUp at least :-). And while it could be argued that those people might have come back anyway, the fact is that 138 pageviews is a fair amount of activity based on only 57 emails.

Let’s look at one last example over a 30 day period with multiple emails on a large race:

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Note in the table, we show 0 recipients for two of the emails because the emails were not sent in the window of time shown in the graph – we are going to change that to show how many were actually sent in the table. The interesting thing is that 921 registrations were generated from an email list of about 13,000 – about 8%. Note also there is a lifecycle to emails – for example the email sent on 9/8 generated views and registrations for the next several days (9/8 was a Friday so some people may not have opened it until Monday).

We hope you enjoy the increasing amount of insights we are bringing to your race with our RunSignUp Analytics engine. We are excited because this is just the beginning as we will be expanding this to show Transaction $, other sources like Facebook and Referrals, and then begin to introduce AI techniques to guide race promotional efforts based on the large data set we are accumulating.

The Risks of Declining Registrations

DollarThere was a recent article on Bloomberg News suggesting that the next financial crisis could start in Silicon Valley and “Fintech”. Fintech is a broad term, but touches all races who use online registration with the movement of over $1 Billion per year thru the 100 or so race registration systems. Here are some of the key thoughts from the article:

The fintech revolution has created an environment ripe for instability and disruption. It does so in three ways. First, fintech companies are more vulnerable to rapid, adverse shocks than typical Wall Street banks. Because they’re small and undiversified, they can easily go under when they hit a blip in the market. Second, fintech companies are more difficult to monitor than conventional financial firms. Third, fintech has not developed the set of unwritten norms and expectations that guide more traditional financial institutions.

Many race registrations are happening by transactions going to the race registration company, and then payments are made from that company to the race. This is risky since the company may use that cash and delay payments of the money to races to pay their own salaries and other costs.

This is not a problem when a company is growing, as most race registration companies have over the past 5 years between shifts away from legacy vendors and the general increase in the number of races and registrations. There is more money coming in the door each day, so there is plenty of money to pay past races.

However, in a shrinking market, this can be a death spiral. Fewer races and fewer registrations means less cash coming in. This leads to downsizing of staff and more delayed payments to customers, especially if the company was funding operations with the “float” of race funds (the two weeks it takes many companies to pay out).

And, we are in a shrinking market as reported in our recent Registration Market Analysis. The number of races on RunningintheUSA.com fell by 4%. And the number of races on all vendors (except RunSignUp) we could get a hard count for the number of races in October fell from last year (ask your registration company for accurate numbers – these are what we could find by searching public calendars):


Races should be asking their vendors for financial statements and details on how their race funds are held, in addition to race and registration growth. RunSignUp is transparent on this issue, and has made large investments in becoming a Payment Facilitator. This means each race (and charity) becomes their own merchant with their own bank account. RunSignUp can not even use your money if we wanted to! The financial statement you want to ask for is their Current Ratio – in simple terms how much money the registration company has in the bank vs. what they owe races.

There are already signs of a shrinking of the number of registration vendors. The recent announcement of RaceIt being shuttered in November took many by surprise. They will likely not be the last – the margins and economics in this business are difficult, especially when combined with the need to stay on the cutting edge of technology. We do not mean to be fear-mongers, but races need to protect themselves against getting caught in the type of credit squeeze discussed in the Bloomberg article.



We wanted to share an inside view of what really happens at our company. Last night Bob sent an email to everyone:

I know a number of you work in Moorestown, and a lot of others will be coming in another week and a half. PLEASE be careful with your shoes. There is a shoe thief loose in Moorestown.

“A person reported their left shoe was missing after they took them off while at the Moorestown Library on Sept. 6. When they went to put the shoes back on, one was missing. It is described as a purple and black Nike basketball shoe.”
The responses:
MattMo: “Just what we need, someone clogging up the system with petty crime. The thief sounds like a real heel. Somebody ought to sock them.”
Johanna: “I did end up with 2 left running shoes when I left to run today.”
MattMo: “The thief had no sole and was just being knotty.”
Kohart: “Those puns are shamelace. And that thief must be a pretty good sneaker.”
Natalie” “I love that this is on the core email chain. PunSignUp is the best!”
MattMo: “Thief last seen wielding a stilletto.  Not easily defeeted.”
Megan: “This is quite the Cinderella story.”
Kohart: “I’m flip-flopping on whether or not your pun is good Megan…”
Ryan: “Not sure what I stepped in to; this thread is laced with bad jokes.”
Megan: “I put my heart insole into that Ryan!”
Andrew S: “First of all… it wasn’t ‘purple and black’, it is more navy blue…”
MattMo: “I realized I could have done a lot better with my previous pun. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give myself Asics.”
Sue: “That’s it. I quit!”
Matt S: “Puns can bring a New Balance to workplace engagement. Good thing we don’t work with a bunch of loafers.”
Kohart: “This is sandalous.”
Connor: “Am I too late to shoehorn in a comment?”
Marlise: “I am tongue-tied…”
Bob: “I just don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”