Spanish cyclists didn’t let restrictions on outdoor activities stop them from staying active. While outdoor activities dropped in March and April, there was a corresponding spike in indoor activities (good thing there are never travel restrictions on the island of Watopia). And after the lockdown was lifted, there was a huge increase in outdoor activities as athletes stretched their legs.
Spanish photographer Brazo de Hierro gave us a glimpse into the homes of cyclists during the pandemic in his series Light Behind Lockdown. The stories from riders recall the uncertainty of the early days of the pandemic.
Ashleigh Moolman , pro cyclist for CCC LIV
In other countries, like the US and the UK, athletes were still able to get outside for a workout. And they took advantage of the privilege – there was a significant increase in outdoor activity that started in March and continued throughout the summer as athletes hit the roads and trails in droves.
With fewer travel opportunities and no races on the calendar, many athletes invented their own challenges to keep themselves motivated. Katherine Fischer’s around the block 100-milers (she ended up doing two of them!) stand out. The Californian completed the hundred mile runs by doing laps around her block, stopping at her house to fuel with donuts and even do some work throughout the day. Now that’s multi-tasking!
Katherine Fischer , Block Party Legend
By May, countries around the world had eased restrictions, the days were getting longer and warmer in the Northern Hemisphere and athletes were ready to get going! On average, athletes total moving time for the month was up 12% compared to their moving time in May of 2019. While not everyone had the luxury of free time this year, throughout the summer most Strava athletes spent more time moving their body than they had the year before.
Many races around the world were cancelled this year, but athletes still found ways to challenge themselves. Whether it was by running a virtual marathon, setting a Fastest Known Time, or Everesting, they found new ways to compete over every distance from a distance.
Everesting requires a cyclist to ride up and down the same hill until they’ve climbed the equivalent of Mount Everest’s elevation (29,029 ft/8,848 m). Despite the absurdity of this challenge, there was a 428% increase in Everesting activities this July compared to July of 2019.
Although most people attempting an Everesting are just trying to finish with their legs intact, there was a fierce battle for the Everesting World Record this year. The men’s record fell six times, landing with American Sean Gardner in September. The women’s record was broken four times, with British Olympian and former World Champion Emma Pooley eventually claiming the crown.
Emma Pooley , Everesting World Record holder
Everesting World Records weren’t the only cycling history made on Strava this year. Tadej Pogačar became the first Slovenian to win the Tour, the youngest winner in 112 years and the first rider to share his winning Tour de France on Strava. Unfortunately his ride into Paris in yellow was lost to history when his cycling computer bounced loose on the cobbles of the Champs-Élysées.
With nearly all in-person races cancelled, runners have found new ways to compete. While the total number of marathon distance runs decreased by 42% compared to last year, there was a huge increase in solo marathons. This year over 11,000 people shared their virtual London Marathons, and over 14,000 people completed the Virtual TCS New York City Marathon on Strava.
Members of the WIND running club found a special way to complete the Boston Marathon from the streets of Vancouver. They mapped out the iconic emblem of the Boston Athletic Association before finishing their virtual race on a track.
There were a few marathons that actually happened in-person this year and one was the US Olympic Marathon Trials in February. For most runners, just meeting the qualifying standard and getting to run in the race is a lifetime achievement (three Strava employees made it in). For the fastest hopefuls, this is the race that determines who gets to represent the United States at the Olympic Marathon – which was still scheduled for 2020 at the time. The top two women, Aliphine Tuliamuk and Molly Seidel , are both avid Strava fans and we can’t wait to see what they do in 2021.
With races cancelled, many runners were chasing Fastest Known Times (or FKTs), breaking records on well known trails. One of the most impressive runs was Coree Woltering’s new record on the 1,200 mile Ice Age Trail through Wisconsin: 21 days, 13 hours and 35 minutes. That’s an average of 55 miles a day!
By the end of the summer, pro runners were getting opportunities to make use of their training and fans were treated to some truly spectacular races. One of the most remarkable activities of the year has to be Joshua Cheptegei’s 5000 m World Record run at a Diamond League event in August. His official time of 12:35 is just above 4 minutes per mile pace! Joshua is supported by the NN Running Team, just like legendary marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, so we expect to see many more outstanding performances. Follow Joshua on Strava.
In a year of disruption, sport helped us stay connected. Athletes joined more clubs and participated in more challenges. Some found ways to use their sport to advocate for equality and social justice. Together, we rose up to face the challenges of the year.
When the coronavirus required Brazilian Diego Salgado to cancel a bicycle tour in New Zealand and forced his dad out of work, bicycle deliveries became their salvation. Diego’s father started baking pies from an old family recipe and Diego delivered them on his bike.
Diego Salgado , cyclist, courrier and sports journalist
Diego is just one of the heroes we all came to rely on this year, from couriers to healthcare workers to bus drivers. While not all of us were working on the frontlines, we supported each other in a million tiny ways. On average, there were 6.5 kudos given for every hour of activity logged on Strava. Think of that like someone giving you a (virtual) high five every 10 minutes! May had the biggest year over year increase in total kudos – we were excited to see our friends getting back outside and to be doing the same ourselves.
Kudos weren’t the only way athletes were keeping in touch. While many clubs were unable to meet in-person, they turned to Strava to stay connected. This year we saw a spike in new clubs as well as an increased appetite for joining them.
In April, Strava’s NHS Active Challenge encouraged participants to get outside for at least ten minutes a day and to donate at least £5 to the UK’s National Health Service. Our fundraiser received over £450,000 from people who wanted to support this iconic British institution as it fought back against the pandemic.
There were dozens of fundraising challenges that used Strava to build awareness this year and in total they raised over $2 million. Not all of those donations came from people in this community, but we’re proud that we could help support so many good causes.
May was our peak challenge month, when we broke 1 million participants in a single challenge for the first time with the May 5K. Our social-distancing SOLOdarity challenge almost hit the mark, too, ending on May 10 with 965,000 athletes.
This year saw one of the biggest movements for civil rights in decades. While it started in the United States, it spread around the world. In response, we made a commitment to the Black community to become an anti-racist organization. Since then, we’ve increased the diversity of our team (and we publish those numbers quarterly on our careers page), we’ve created a role for a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion lead within our People team, and implemented new processes to detect and moderate hate speech on our app. This is only the start and we are conducting ongoing research to discover additional ways Strava can better support and represent all athletes of color.
We’re also invested in amplifying the work of athletes and organizations who advocate for equity in sport. This year, the San Francisco Cycling Club started the Ride For Justice. Participants were asked to ride as many miles as they could on June 20th – the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer solstice – and to donate a dollar for every mile to the Equal Justice Initiative. The ride raised more than $100,000 and over 28,000 people completed the challenge on Strava.
Striving for racial justice brought people to the streets around the world, whether they were walking, running or cycling. On Strava, athletes showed their support for the movement by turning the route line on their activity black by using tags including #justice, #equality, #georgefloyd, #breonnataylor and #irunwithmaud. These words and the map were used over 125,000 times and in 137 different countries.
2020 – It’s forced us to find new motivations without races, to find ways to be together while staying apart and to remember that no matter how dark it seemed, there would be a light after lockdown. Athletes are known for their determination, but all of us had to dig deeper than ever before. Whether you were able to complete a virtual marathon or your 2020 PB was putting on a pair of actual pants, y'all crushed it this year. But we’re not done yet. Whether it’s supporting each other through the pandemic or pushing for racial equity, the work is going to continue into 2021 – and beyond. We know you could probably use a rest interval. But we know you’ll be back at it. Because if there’s one thing this year has taught us, it’s this: Athletes don’t quit.