Virtually Running

by Shelley English

I’m betraying my age here – but when I first heard the term ‘virtual racing”, I immediately thought of the introduction of the concept of virtual reality in 80’s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. However, virtual racing has nothing to do with “virtual reality”…you really are doing the running, but you are doing it at your own chosen time and place.

The Resolution Run 5k Virtual Race – a New Year’s tradition

Virtual racing is becoming quite a trend. There are a growing number of companies who offer virtual races; such as Will Run for Bling, Gone For a Run, Virtual Strides, and Virtual Run Events, just to name a few. Most of them offer really fun themes and cool medals, which of course is part of the attraction! But there are many reasons to do virtual running, other than the hardware!

The next best thing to being there

My first experience with virtual racing happened a few years ago when I had registered for a local race series. The final race in the series was postponed due to fire in the area. They rescheduled for a date on which I had a prior commitment, but offered the virtual option for those in the same predicament. I just had to run the distance and submit proof of the run via “Map My Run”. A friend and I ran the virtual  race the same day as the live one, but at a different location. I emailed the proof to the race coordinator. By the end of the week, my series medal and shirt arrived in the mail.

It seems more of the larger races are offering a virtual option.  I’m very excited that the Giant Race series is offering the virtual option this year. The series includes four races in different locations between March and September, culminating with the race in San Francisco and offering “sweep” medals for running two, three or all of them. Doing all four of the races in person is not an option for me this year, but doing a couple of them virtually certainly is!

Hold Myself Accountable (and get bling for my effort!)

It’s not always easy to get out there and do the miles; let’s face it, sometimes the medal is a carrot! I’m currently participating in a couple of Virtual Race challenges; one is the 200 Mile Winter Challenge which runs from mid-December to mid-March; and the other is a team challenge with 3 friends, to run a combined 2,017 miles this year. Both challenges are keeping me accountable and getting me out there to at least meet a minimum mileage goal per week.

I’m currently training for a half marathon (a “live” one!) that’s about a month away. These challenges are helping me to get my miles in not only to train for the half but also to meet these concurrent goals. The truth is, the organizations hosting the virtual races are not going to know whether I did the miles or not…but I will know; and in the case of the 2,017 miles, so will my team.

Challenging Others

It’s a great way to challenge friends and family in different locations. My mom – who lives in the Bay area – and I are both doing many of the Giant Race series separately, gearing up for the big one later in the year where we will meet up and both collect our “sweep” medals at the end.

No crowds

Although to me, the crowds add to the race day excitement, some people don’t enjoy being in the midst of a large group. So Virtual Racing is an option for introverted runners.

Support great causes

Most of the virtual races donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. It’s a good way to support lots of different causes doing something you’d be doing anyway.

For the person who has everything

You know your sister likes to run and collect medals, but you may not know her schedule.  The virtual race offers a fantastic gift option. It’s unique, and not likely to be exchanged!

These are just a few of the reasons virtual races are a great option for runners. What has your experience with virtual racing been like?