The Generosity of Runners

Thank you!Since I started out on the Big Running Survey project (i.e. my PhD research) a year or so ago I admit I’ve been swaying between wild optimism and gloomy pessimism on an almost weekly basis. I’m not naturally given to either extreme, but one unknown about the project has kept me up at night on many more than one occasion.

Specifically, after a year of research and writing and survey development, then the piloting, getting feedback and finally drawing up the final survey tool, I’ve wondered if, when the survey was finally launched, anyone would notice – or care. At my most pessimistic moments I’ve imagined running clubs refusing to pass it on to their members, social media shrugging its shoulders and moving on, race organisers throwing my requests for help in the bin… then where would I be? back to square one, and a year’s work down the drain.

However, at sunnier moments I’ve thought about all the nice people I’ve met through running. Their keenness to get others involved and to support them on their way to their own goals. Their pure joy in the sport, and the enthusiasm of their conversations about it. Surely these people will help me… some of them, at least.

Well, D-Day was last Monday, 8 days ago: The moment my survey was announced to the world. I contacted a few dozen running clubs – the first of a long list of contacts I’ve compiled by scouring the internet, I emailed all the runners I knew and called in a few favours, and then I took to twitter and facebook to try to get a snowball rolling. Then I just had to wait and see what would happen next.

Within a few hours a trickle of responses was coming in. Day 1 reaped 9 responses. Day 2, a further 7. At this stage I was feeling positive. At this rate I could reach my minimum target of 500 in just a couple of months – well within schedule.

But then it started to take off. A friend of a friend posted a link on his running club facebook page and sent out a tweet. Day 3 garnered 33 responses. After a quiet day 4 one of my tweets was picked up by #ukrunchat and another couple of retweeters and in flooded 56 responses. Two days later and more retweets from various running groups and individuals led to 72 responses… Surely it couldn’t go on like this?!

It didn’t… A day later it went off the scale! I’d had far fewer women respondents than men, so tweeted #womensrunninguk to ask for help finding female runners who would be interested in participating. A day or two later they retweeted it, setting off a minor viral cascade, with dozens of retweets and resulting in an incredible 469 responses on the day.

So, I’ve already surpassed my minimum sample size of 500 by 50%, and the responses are still coming in. I had allocated four months for data collection, and this all happened in only 8 days! The only ‘problem’ I have now is that I need more male runners, as the call for female runners was so successful they’ve put the men in the shade!

I’m going to keep up the publicity on social media (without getting annoying, I hope!) and keep contacting the clubs, many of whom have already been so helpful. I’m just so thankful for the generosity of the running community – all those hundreds of strangers – who have helped me promote the survey and who have completed it themselves. Also for all the encouraging comments that have redoubled my enthusiasm for the project.

Thank you all!

Survey can be accessed via www.bigrunningsurvey.co.uk

Results will be published on this website in due course.

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