How the pandemic inspired a new wave of runners around the world

More people than ever are lacing up their running shoes, and they plan to continue long after Covid-19

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 1, 2020.  
Standalone:  A runner on the Corniche, Abu Dhabi, on a foggy morning.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
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Amid the isolation of months spent indoors, more people than ever have been reaching for their running shoes.

Figures from around the world show a surge of people running regularly, with many citing it as a way to feel free from the confines of self-isolation.

Two thirds of those surveyed said running was a way to help them cope with stressful situations

The study, carried out by Asics, spoke to 14,000 regular runners across 12 countries, and found more than a third said they are more active now than before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite most sports being brought to a standstill by the outbreak.

The study also revealed that runners were getting out for more than just their fitness. Two-thirds of those surveyed said running was a way to help them cope with stressful situations, while 79 per cent said running helps them to feel saner and more in control. In fact, 67 per cent of runners said the mental benefits far outweighed the physical.

Fitness-tracker app Runkeeper also provided data for the study. According to its April figures, the app saw a 225 per cent increase in registrations globally and a 44 per cent rise in monthly active users compared with the same time last year. Globally, it has reported a 62 per cent spike in people running at least once a week.

“For most of us, life is full of anxieties, uncertainties and restrictions at the moment,” says Yasuhito Hirota, president and chief operating officer at Asics. “As our study's initial findings prove, a run has therefore become much more than just a run. It's a way for people to put aside the extraordinary mental challenges of this pandemic."

Almost three-quarters of runners say they plan to continue running as regularly as they have been during the pandemic once things return to normal, and 62 per cent of people who took up running only after Covid-19 struck say they plan to continue their new habit.