A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Finishing a virtual race on a chilly Saturday

on November 23, 2013

Today, I am finishing up my fourth virtual race with the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Virtual Fun Run/Walk, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about virtual races. Before I started running, I didn’t even realize these existed!

Doctor Who Virtual Run

Virtual races are races that organized online (usually, although I guess it wouldn’t have to be) in which you run on your own, wherever and generally whenever you like. You can run outdoors or on the treadmill. There is no minimum pace, so you can walk as much as need to without fear of the “sweepers.” While there is usually a recommended time frame for completing the event, this time frame may be an entire week or even a month. Regardless, if you don’t want to get up for a 5:30 am start (already dreading that part of PHM!), you probably won’t have to.

Virtual races are frequently done for fundraising, in which your registration fee / donation goes to good cause. With virtual races, because they require less infrastructure on the part of the organizers, you can find a much wider variety of causes and themes than you might in a traditional road race. I’ve run across lots of virtual races that have been organized by individuals for their favorite causes or even to help meeting their fundraising goal for a charity-sponsored admission to another race. With these races, you might get a t-shirt or a medal or other momento of the event. Women’s Health sponsored the Run10Feed10 event earlier this year, which paired races in several cities with the option to run the race virtually on your own if you didn’t live near one of the host cities, which was a nice idea. For that run, we got a bag filled with samples from some of the events other sponsors and I completed it over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I ran parts of the same course that the official race would cover a few weeks later, which was fun and the registration fee went to support hunger relief programs.

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Not all virtual races have registration fees. SparkPeople has an entire page devoted to virtual races without associated fees. These allow you the opportunity to participate in a group running event even if you live in a more remote area or you can’t afford traditional race registration at the time. They post the times of others competing in the virtual race so that you can see where you would rank and how you progress over time.

Some pros of virtual races:

  • You can map your own route and run on your own schedule (nice if weather is an issue!).*I’ll be finishing up my virtual half marathon on the treadmill today because this is my weather forecast:

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  • You can even break it up to run in segments, like I did with my half marathon this week. My training plan called for 13 miles total this week, so I get to complete the virtual half marathon for the Doctor while still saving my first complete half marathon for Disney in February.
  • You might get some fun bling (really looking forward to my Dr. Who medal).
  • You can contribute funds to a good cause and get a good workout in – always love double dipping.
  • You can still participate in a race even though you live in an area that doesn’t have many organized running events.
  • You can participate with friends that may be geographically too far apart to otherwise run together.
  • If you’re someone who gets stressed about the pressure of “race day” this might be a lower pressure way to assess your progress.
  • No “sweepers” or minimum pace to meet.
  • With many virtual runs, there’s a lot of social support via message boards, websites, Facebook, etc where you can find others to cheer you on. Many sites even encourage you to submit your race photos to share!
  • Some will send you a bib or link to print your own bib if you’d like.
  • Virtual races have some of the most interesting theming! Jost’s  Slow Your Roll for November (in which you are actually encouraged to go slower than normal, not faster), the Nerd Herd’s Star Wars, Harry Potter and Banned Book series (really hope they do that next year) and of course today’s Doctor Who run are just a few examples.
  • You can easily organize your own virtual race, either for fun (like Katie over at RunsforCookies did for her 31st birthday via her blog) or as your own fundraising event.

A couple of cons:

  • You miss on the extra push you get from spectators and other runners, which might be a big deal for you.
  • If you need a certified time for corral placement or to qualify for another event, this probably won’t count.
  • You need to be mentally okay with the fact that some people are going to sign up for the race but never actually run it. One could easily lie about doing the run and still get the bling if the registration fee was paid. Where’s the fun that?

Have you done any virtual races?

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5 responses to “Finishing a virtual race on a chilly Saturday

  1. I just saw a link about the Dr. Who anniversary virtual race and I was really considering it! My husband got me hooked on Dr. Who a few months ago and who wouldn’t want a Tardis medal?? Thanks for a great recap of virtual races! I’ve read a lot about them lately and have considered doing one, so your pro and con list is great!

  2. Lauren says:

    Although I have not participated in a virtual race before, I LOVE the idea of them, especially to help benefit my favorite charities. I need to start searching for some!

    • I think it’s a fun idea too – especially the flexibility of it. My very first virtual 5K was a Halloween themed one via SparkPeople and I did it while I was in Maui for work. I love the idea that I’ve “raced” in Hawaii. 🙂

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