Running the Distance: How Runna and Russ Cook are Changing the Game

Written by
Celeste Conn

Insights by
Celeste Conn

12 Apr, 2024

On April 7th, Russ Cook finished running the entire length of Africa. Transversing 16 countries and 16,000km, Russ and his team survived armed robberies, getting kidnapped and several days lost in the jungle. The ‘totally normal bloke’ from Sussex has proven how that the impossible can be overcome.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, the number of runners is growing.

  • 400,000 runners at Park Run every Saturday

  • Nearly 500,000 Brits applied for a ballot place in the 2024 TCS London Marathon

  • Google searches for ‘how to get back into running’’ have increased by 160% since the start of 2024

In 2021, friends Dom & Ben launched an AI-powered running-coaching app, Runna.

Two years later, they successfully secured another $5 million in funding and now have hundreds of thousands of users.

  • The monthly search volume for Runna has increased by 222% over the last year

Fifty set out to uncover who is engaging online with Russ’s African adventure, and who Runna and its key competitors’ audiences.

This led us to think… how can the two forces be combined to reach maximum people and get more Brits running?

Understanding the running landscape

Fifty’s pioneering AI and data platform generates unparalleled insights into audiences. Our AI can take any audience and segment them into tribes that capture different passions, interests, demographics, as well as their influencer, brand and media preferences.

Figure 1: Comparing audiences across the UK running landscape

By creating an understanding of the different types of running audiences, we can discover the nuances and opportunities surrounding the sport. Our analysis of the UK running audience segmented into 15 tribes that captures different running groups.

The first learning we uncovered is that only 13% of the running audience can be classified as ‘Dedicated Runners’ or running-obsessed savants. The other 87% have other primary passions in life, and are not best defined by their love of running. This diversity of the audience landscape highlights the need for a multi-faceted approach from brands, to understand and engage audiences who might be interested in running, but whose real passions lie elsewhere.

Four of the most wider audiences that have particular opportunity for growth are:

Figure 2: Top 4 Wider Running Audiences

Figure 3: Russ Cook Fans and UK Running Comparison

Russ Cook: The Inspiration

Across the running landscape, one of the more surprising
audiences was ‘Male Gen-Z Entertainment Fans’.

We think there is one reason for this: Russ Cook

His extraordinary challenge has expanded running’s reach into
this enormous audience segment: inspiring a group more typically
connected to Gaming, YouTube, Football and British

Cook’s vulnerability about his mental health, addiction battles
and lifestyle before running has captured the attention of this group, and perhaps inspired them to think about whether they too could start running.

The Fifty platform reveals that this tribe makes up 45% of Russ’s audience. In essence, Russ Cook is one of many inspirations that have grown the popularity of running and essentially filled running's 'top of the funnel'.

Runna: The Answer

Running’s sharp growth has not just been fuelled by more runners, but by greater commitment and longevity for those who have taken up the sport.

The rise in running apps, like Strava, Garmin and Runna has helped people maintain their running routines. The combination of improved data and progress analysis, with a more gamified, social experience has made it easier than ever to turn running into a regular habit.

This is the exact appeal of the personalised coaching app Runna.

When we look at the audiences that Fifty have discovered, Runna has triumphed in reaching the female Gen-Z crowd.

Figure 4: Runna's UK Audiences

Health & Fitness Wannabes are a women-powered group, running in strength after the movements of This Girl Can, Friday Night Lights and Hot Girl Walks. Strava has found that they are more active than their male counterparts:

  • Women under-25 are their fastest growing community

Runna has captured this audience and has maintained their engagement, keeping them hooked.

When we compared Runna’s audiences to competitors Garmin and Strava we uncovered the Digital-First Professionals tribe. They’re the largest tribe in the study overall and make up significant numbers across the brands.

This tribe isn’t as interested in Russ Cook, suggesting that they are slightly older, already running or are not as influenced by social media. Runna can see though that they are already into their fitness tracking and therefore, could be another opportunity for growth.

So, in summary

The staggering accomplishment of Russ has got lots of people thinking. Even at the micro level, our Fifty Run Club has quadrupled in members over the last month with the running bug spreading around the office.

How can brands like Runna use this unique social landscape to grow in subscribers and get more people outside and ‘pounding the tarmac’?

Our key insights:

  • 87% of runners have other primary interests online and in life

  • A key growth audience for brands is Male Gen-Z Entertainment Fans, which Russ Cook has brought into running

  • Another key audience is Health & Fitness Wannabes, demonstrating the avalanche in female running uptake.

We think our platform is the perfect solution for capturing, targeting and growing running audiences.

Runna or Russ, we’d love to chat.

To learn more about how Fifty can help you understand your audiences, get in touch with us at

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