Sports Dissertation Summary


Name: Laragh MacDermott

Course: BSc (Hons) Sports Management

University: Bournemouth University

Dissertation Title:

Life after COVID-19: Runners’ perspective on the ‘New Normal’ of running events and how they can be improved – An ethnographic approach’

Number of words:10,000 ​ Research:

This study aims to gain an understanding of runners’ experiences at COVID-19 secure events by identifying what they enjoy and dislike in both, live and virtual running events and what they would like to stay or be improved in future mass participation events. Using an ethnographic approach with in-depth interviews with runners and participant observation, I identified these runners were not significantly concerned regarding COVID-19 when racing but rather, the community/social element and the sense of achievement participating in these events were crucial to runners.

Key Findings:

During the data collection process, a few themes were raised repeatedly; motivation to race, sense of achievement, not concerned about COVID-19 at running events, event atmosphere and new ways of racing/ staggered starts. Figure 1 displays what topics where mentioned.


Figure 2 is a model which displays the important factors for participants’ experience at live and virtual running events. This is a useful framework for organisations to refer to when they plan their event as it is important to look at events from a participant’s point of view too.


Conclusion: It is clear that runners would like staggered starts to stay in some form. The participants involved in this study are careful but do not worry about COVID-19 during the event.

Motivating themselves to keep training; challenging themselves; achieving their official PB times and enjoying a social day out together are just some of the reasons people participate in mass running events. Runners enjoy the accessibility benefits virtual events offer and this study shows there is a market for these in the future. The community aspect of virtual events, especially during the lockdowns, was another factor contributing to their uptake and success. The insights from the runners involved provided positive hope regarding the return of live mass sporting events. Us runners cannot wait to get back to racing together!


Laragh MacDermott is an Unofficial Partner Intern