Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Cork BHAA numbers down 16% so far in 2016....Are there too many races???

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cork BHAA numbers down 16% so far in 2016....Are there too many races???

Last week, the Cork BHAA held their annual Novartis 5k road race in Ringaskiddy on what was a dry overcast evening, perfect for running. With a dry fit top on offer for the first 500 finishers, it might have been expected to get big numbers. Instead of the 537 of 2015, this year it was down to 392. That's still a good number for a road race in Cork but it is still down 27% on 2015.

So why the drop? I had a look at the first 13 Cork BHAA races of 2016 and see how they compared to a year ago.

Of the 13 Cork BHAA races so far in 2016, 12 were down compared to 2015 with only the Pfizers 6 mile race recording a plus of 13.7%. I added up the total number of finishers for all 13 races and it came out at 5291 for 2016 compared to 6330 for 2015, a drop of 16.4%.

At the start of 2016, the Cork BHAA increased the entry fee for non-registered runners from €8 to €10. I was wondering if that was a factor so I had a look at 20 other races in Cork (outside of the Cork BHAA and Ballycotton Summer Series). These ranged in dates from the start of January to the end of June 2016 and these included only 5k to 10k races, not the longer ones. All the races were within a reasonable distance of Cork City.

Of the 20 that I picked, there were 6738 finishers in 2016 compared to 7762 in 2015, a drop of 13.2%. Four of the 20 had larger numbers while 16 were down. I could have picked different races but because of the large overall sample, the overall result would have been roughly the same....a drop in the region of 10 to 15%. That's in line if not slightly better than the Cork BHAA races.

So the next question is why the drop? A lot of people suspect that there are too many races but are there fewer people running as well? There is a theory that as the economy improves, more people are working and people are busier leaving less time for races.

So I had a look at the numbers for the first 3 races of the Ballycotton Summer 5 mile Series...Ballyandreen, Shanagarry & Churchtown South. Over the three races, there were 1724 finishers in 2016, a small rise of 3.8% on the 1661 of 2015.

While the 2016 numbers might be down on 2014, they are up on 2015 in contrast to the other club and Cork BHAA races.

Surely if the overall number of runners in the Cork area was down, wouldn't the numbers at the Ballycotton Summer Series be down as well? My own conclusion is that the number of runners out there is about the same if not down a small bit on previous years. The main reason for the drop in numbers by far is that there are simply just a lot more events to choose from.

Perhaps another thing that is being lost at present is the 'sense of occasion'. About 10 years ago, there used to be roughly one race per week. People knew what was on and you'd see the same people at every race. Contrast that to now when there are several races per week and some are even going head to head on the same day.

Financial.....The biggest impact of the lower race numbers for now is likely to be financial. Some races with a lot of expenses or with small numbers are likely to struggle.

For example, the Grant Thornton 5k is a commercial race in the heart of Cork City and would be expensive to hold. They had a drop of 23% this year which would have meant a reduction of €4,800 in revenue.

Some of the smaller races that are used to raise funds are going to find things more difficult as well going forward. If the drop in numbers continue then it's hard to see them all surviving.

Parkruns....Another factor in the race numbers are the ever increasing number of free 5k parkruns. If anything, these are likely to increase in number and they are bound to have an ever increasing impact on race numbers as well.

Looking forward.....I think that in time, the number of races may well reduce but not to the extent that the numbers in races will recover. I suspect the era of peak numbers at most road races is behind us.


Anonymous said...

John, your analysis is really interesting. I think you should include the number of races on the week of Novartis 5k in 2016 to the number of races in 2014 or before for completeness. It doesn't take a genius to work out that there are lots more.

If you don't include ALL the races in your analysis then you are missing those who are the percentage downturn i.e. some runners will now run in their local fundraiser or in a walk/run as part of their festival and this is their lot for that week.

Ballycotton has the 'sense of occasion' that you feel has been lost and this is why the numbers remain. The same tough courses, the plaque,the league, the t-shirts - this is a serious occasion and one most runners enjoy. Random 5ks don't compare. Other races like Donoughmore 7, Cork to Cobh are all classic races - long may they continue to attract large numbers and the proliferation of new races doesn't take from them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article John. I think the explosion of non-permit races is a big factor. Small community organisations are now frequently holding 5k 'fun runs' where previously they nay have had cake sales or table quizzes by way of fundraisers. Many of these events are attracting 100 - 200 runners so obviously its taking from numbers elsewhere. This might help explain the overall 10 - 15 % drop you mention. I suspect this is a fad and will die out in time and the race calendar will revert to a more traditional look.

Anonymous said...

John, a very interesting article.

I am inclined to agree there are too many races, however all are for a purpose and usually for a charity or local community. I hope these races continue to flourish and why not. Where does the money from all the BHAA races go!?? Perhaps they should look at reducing the number they hold?

Anonymous said...

Some of the races last year were simply over sold - too crowded. Even Sonia O'Sullivan commented on it after Ballintotis. It wasn't sustainable in the long run (no pun intended).

Anonymous said...

There are just so many races these days - every Community Hall, GAA Club, Primary School etc are putting on 5K runs (as the previous poster noted) that are taking numbers from the "real" races. And I think 5K fun/runs are appealing to a lot of joggers/casual runners.
I run most of the BHAA 5K/4M runs but this week the BHAA 5M in Ringaskiddy didn't appeal to me so I jumped ship and went to Carrignavar for a 5K in support of the local GAA club. Not sure how many were there but it was hosted by the Carrignavar AC - many of their members ran it who may have otherwise been in Ringaskiddy.
I do still hope these smaller fun/runs continue as it gives many options to folks who may not feel comfortable on "real" races....

Anonymous said...

Where does the money from all the BHAA races go!??

i am involved in one of the races on the BHAA calendar and the cost of the prize money alone is close to €2500.when you add in everything(food/water etc) you would need 800 runners to break even!!!

Anonymous said...

Echo the comment above. I am involved in organising a BHAA race and the outlay is far greater than the money pulled in. Our company sponsor the race for the local running community. Profit is not a factor.

Anonymous said...

Is numbers down a bad thing? I ran a few business house races this year and entry and just getting to prizegiving is slightly easier i felt. A race i really enjoy is the shanagarry 5km,best race in cork by miles and i was able to put my toe on the line without having a shouldering match.i hope that this race continues to have sub 100 runners as this is corks best race for me

Anonymous said...

Great comment there on the Shanagarry 5km, I must give it a go next year.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps some people are becoming more focused in their training and so instead of racing every week, they are being more careful about the races that they run so that they fit in with their training? I know I am. I would agree with the points being made around the sheer number of races too. How does this compare to the numbers involved in clubs? Is that number up or down? Maybe more people were just able to get away on holidays this year.