Someone (a fellow runner actually) recently asked me what a virtual race was. I was a little surprised that they had never heard of them so I thought…what a great post for the blog! Races help you set goals and create new fitness challenges, they give you something to look forward to, and they give you a boost of energy and excitement to keep you running. They are fun and exciting for the new runner who has yet to participate in one, as well as the experienced runner who has crossed many finish lines. But not all races have a set start and finish line or even a specific day they have to be ran on. What if I told you that you could participate in a race by just stepping outside your front door on the day and time of your choice? If that kind of flexibility and convenience is just what you need, a virtual race may be just for you!
What exactly is a virtual race?
Simply put, a virtual race is a one that you can run (or walk!) at the location of your choice, the pace you need, and the time that works best for you. For the most part, you will find a race and distance you would like to participate in, register for it online, complete it on the day/time that works best for you (usually within a certain timeframe), and then receive a medal in the mail! It is that easy! While some virtual races require that you upload your time before mailing your medal, many of them rely completely on the honor system, and you are accountable for your own commitment and completion of the race.
You choose the distance, you choose your starting line, you choose the time. These are some of the great benefits of a virtual race, but there are so many more!
Convenience is Priceless
The convenience of a virtual race is absolutely priceless for some people. Let’s be honest, life can get hectic, and it can be really hectic for some people. Attending a race is not something everyone has the ability to do because of time restrictions alone. Races are not only a dedication to the actual race time, but also to the travel time, and for many people, that time is simply just not there. Life commitments such as being a caregiver, having children, or having a job where you are on call often are examples of major time commitments in our lives. One of the great benefits of a virtual race, however, is that it cuts the time commitment down majorly, and it allows you to easily adjust your racing plans in the event of unplanned schedule changes or general time constraints.
Races can get expensive, and depending on much travel is involved in getting there, they can get really expensive. Not everyone has the financial ability to fork over the extra money for race fees, travel fees, and all of the little things that add up over time. Virtual races, however, eliminate your travel fees, and usually come with a lower registration cost. I have seen some expensive entry fees, and some of them don’t even offer a medal, however, with virtuals you will usually pay less to register and get some amazing bling! This opens the door for many more people to join in on the racing fun!
Support a Charity
Another great thing about virtual races is that many of them support a charity and a portion of your registration fee will go towards the cause. This is a great way to donate and show your support for something near and dear to your heart, and to run with purpose. And in addition to the financial contribution, you can help raise awareness for the charity by sharing your race photos and medals on social media! Running with purpose and for something that has meaning to you is the best in my opinion. What a wonderful reason to get out there and run!
I have definitely talked about this one before…the running rut. Eventually we find ourselves not so excited about getting our miles in and we need a little motivation to keep us going. Signing up for a virtual race may be just what you need to add some fun to your every day running or to your current training schedule. You can even grab a friend or a group of friends to run it together and create more accountability, fun, and memories! Adding a virtual race into your training gives you a goal within a goal, and keeps the motivation going!
Race Day Rehearsal
You know what always comes along with race day for me? Race nerves!! Especially for my first race…I will never forget how nervous I was waiting at that starting line. Another one of the great benefits of a virtual race is that you are not overwhelmed by the nervousness and the intimidation of being surrounded by hundreds of other runners. Signing up for a virtual race is a really great way to have a “race day rehearsal” that may eliminate some race day nerves as well as give you a good practice round of what to expect. It’s a great time to try out what you will wear, what gear you will carry with you, and any energy supplements you may take during the race. Any time you practice something, it becomes a lesson of what works well as well doesn’t, which in turn will build your confidence and help eliminate some of those nerves.
Be a Part of Something Bigger
While many virtual races are completed on the day of your choice (but within a certain timeframe), some of them are held on a specific day such as Earth Day, National Running Day, or New Year’s Day. For me, it is an awesome feeling to know that I am one of many thousands of people running for the same purpose on that one day. It is a great way to involve runners from all around the world, but yet feel united with a common purpose. In some cases, a race event will also offer a virtual race option in order to create this feeling of involvement and participation for a cause. I love being a part of something bigger, and creating running memories set apart from the everyday mileage!
For Love of the Bling
Okay, who doesn’t love the bling?! A virtual race is a great way to earn your first medal, or to add a few more to your collection. And if you run with purpose or for a cause, the bling is a great way to always remember, create an inspiring conversation piece, and proudly hang on your wall!
How can I find a virtual race?
If a virtual race sounds like a good fit for you, here are a few websites to get you started. I have used each of these in the past at least once, although a simple Google search will help you find plenty more than these!
My Virtual Racing Memories
Shine for Brey
Shine for Brey was my very first race (ever!) and I was honored to contribute to the cause, support someone else’s dream, and to dedicate my run to them. This 5K virtual run will always remind me of strength, courage, and perseverance in life. My family and I were actually staying at an extended stay hotel while our house was being renovated after a kitchen fire and I ran this race on a treadmill at the hotel gym. I was a new runner, and I didn’t feel confident enough to enter a race yet so this virtual was perfect for me. I was able to do it on my own time when I was able and ready, and it gave me the confidence to know that I had the strength and the ability. Being able to support a wonderful cause on top of that absolutely warmed my heart…this is one I will never forget.
Supermom and One Bad Mother Runner
Two virtual 5K races, one day, and one medal from each of my kids. I always want my virtual runs to have a purpose for me, and these two are my absolute favorite ones yet. My kids are my life, my heart, and my soul and nothing is better to me than being their mom! I ran these on Mother’s Day for both my son and my daughter and I ran with a truly thankful heart for the blessing of being their mom. When I walked in the door after completing these races, each of my kids put a medal around my neck…I will never forget that moment! Supermom benefited Project Sunshine, and One Bad Mother Runner benefited STAR, both truly wonderful charities that I was proud to run and support!
Feet on the Street
This 5K race was in honor of National Running Day, and it was a time to simply celebrate the joy of running! I was super excited to be able to run this one with my sister-in-law (it was our first run together!) and to create a fun memory with her. It absolutely poured down rain on us during the middle of our run, but just like every single day of our journeys, we just kept pushing to the end! This event also helped raise money for Back on My Feet, which is a charity that helps combat homelessness through the power of running, a truly wonderful charity to support and run for!
Disney’s Virtual Running Shorts Series
This one was so much fun for me because I absolutely love Disney! And what could be better bling than Disney bling (in my opinion of course!). This was a set of three 5K virtual runs, and by completing all three, I received a bonus medal…score! I wore my Disney tank or hat, sported my Minnie ears and colorful race bibs in my pictures, and I even got to run one of them while on vacation at the beach! It was pretty neat being a part of Disney’s very first virtual races, and they certainly did a magical job on the Mickey bling. And in addition to being fun, these runDisney virtual races also benefited the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society!
Whether you run alone, with a friend, or even with a big group, a virtual race can be a fun, flexible, and motivating event to add to your schedule. Check them out and consider running one of your own!
Happy Virtual Running everyone!