I won't lie. I panicked a bit.
The first two and a half months of 2020 were going well for The Stride Report. We were consistently publishing great content, we had the best indoor track season ever in terms of traffic and we were preparing to produce even better content for the ensuing outdoor season.
In retrospect, TSR was in a great place.
And then the virus happened.
Truthfully, I wasn't necessarily nervous about the virus, although that certainly held it's own stressors. Instead, I began to worry about what The Stride Report was going to do in terms of content.
With the indoor national meet suddenly cancelled, an entire outdoor track season simply gone and plenty of uncertainty surrounding the feasibility of a cross country season, I was admittedly concerned about what we could possibly write about for the foreseeable future.
Now, before I go any further, it's important that I clarify a few things.
The absence of competitive opportunities wasn't nearly as important as the loss of life that we saw this year. It also wasn't nearly as important as the families who were negatively affected by this pandemic, both from a health perspective and a career perspective.
Far greater challenges arose in 2020 than athletes not getting a chance to compete.
That I understand.
Even so, for a website whose sole purpose was to produce articles about race results on a near-daily basis, this was the ultimate hurdle (no pun intended).
How were we going to provide any content without there being any meets? How could we craft rankings without any certainty that a season was going to happen? Even if we did find things to talk about, how could we continue to post articles on a fairly regular basis?
I wasn't the only one thinking this. My phone was often buzzing during that third week of March with friends and family asking similar questions.
And frankly, I didn't have an answer for them.
But that's why it is so important that I have the team that I do.
* * *
A handful of our writers led initial efforts to interview top NCAA distance athletes following the cancellation of the indoor national meet and the outdoor track season. Not only did that give us insightful content, but it also gave us time to conjure up new ideas for the future.
One month later, John Cusick and Ben Weisel thought of an idea called April Anarchy, a bracket challenge which took the greatest distance running collegians since 2000 and allowed our readers to vote on who should win via Instagram.
April Anarchy was a massive success and our traffic (somehow) matched the already-great numbers that we were seeing in January, February and March.
Our summer rankings were also a huge success despite the uncertainty in the NCAA. In fact, those summer rankings gave us some of our most-read content of 2020 and helped us overwhelmingly surpass the traffic that we had in the first few months of the year.
Not only did our D1 and D2 teams pump out excellent material, but we also had our first-ever year where we posted preseason D3 cross country rankings. For TSR, it was an encouraging step in the right direction.
However, what may have been our biggest savior in terms of content was our ability to report on transfers and other key news around the NCAA. I can say with absolute certainty that we have become the go-to place when it comes to transfers in our sport (at least for the distance events). It was a niche that we began to explore in 2019 and one that we truly embraced in 2020.
Not only that, but we also broke some pretty big non-transfer news. Whether it was Brown University reinstating their men's track and cross country teams or the BIG 10 unanimously rejecting a cross country proposal from the NCAA (which gave us some weird regional maps), The Stride Report found a role where we did more than just analysis. We were breaking real and relevant news.
With some cross country action actually happening this past fall and future competition expected to take place this winter (we think), it seems as though we have gotten over the proverbial hump of being in "no man's land" when it comes to content.
* * *
This was a year that should have crushed an up-and-coming website like The Stride Report. Instead, it was a year where we shattered not only our own expectations, but our previous records as well.
When you compare 2020 to 2019, we saw a 77.74% increase in the number of unique people who visited our website. We also saw a 67.88% increase in our number of sessions and a 16.74% increase in our number of page views.
Not only did the month of May blow away our previous all-time monthly-high from 2019 by 46%, but we actually beat that previous 2019 record in six different months this year.
Even now, in the month of December, which is historically one of our worst months ever in terms of traffic, we're nearing all-time highs.
Part of that was because we have such a hard working team that is motivated to produce content off of pure passion.
However, the other reason why we had so much success was because we had such an incredible group of readers. Athletes, coaches, parents and fans of the sport have bought-in to what The Stride Report is trying to do.
Without you all, we would just be writing for my mom (hi mom).
Thank you to our readers who gave TSR a silver lining in what was obviously a difficult year. We are eternally grateful.
Cheers to a happy and healthy 2021.
Your loyal admin,
The Stride Report