Virtual Running is a trend that I hope continues to grow, making running races more convenient than ever and removing distance and crowd restrictions from those who might otherwise sit it out.
The way it works is essentially the same across two different platforms; virtual races can be run as an alternative to running an actual race somewhere, and virtual races can also be strictly virtual and have no specific race tied into it at all. Either way, the virtual runner can run the distance in the comfort of her own neighborhood, where ever that may be in the world, and they can run without the added adrenaline and pressure of ‘keeping up with this person’ or ‘staying ahead of that guy’.
When a person signs up for a Virtual Race, once the registration fee is paid, they are preemptively sent a packet which will include a shirt, a finishers medal and sometimes, a race bib. Race bibs can sometimes also be printed up from an electronic source-file if one is available. Different virtual races and runs vary on the procedures, but most often some proof or verification that the run was completed at all is requested either in the form of a screenshot of an app with a link – detailing the distance and pace – or sometimes the only proof required will be a photograph and nothing more.
Strictly virtual races also enjoys the flexibility for hosting a race through a website or Facebook page to raise money for a cause, a charity, or a specific need in a community. They also allow more creative flexibility and cross-marketing opportunities by associating a virtual run with a popular cultural phenomenon such as Pokemon GO, Dr Who or any number of other meaningful or community specific icons and symbols that could encourage more participation; what true Dr. Who fan wouldn’t want a blue Police box finishers medal? Lastly, these kinds of races have very little overhead. There are no permits required, no port-a-potties, no police officers directing traffic that need to be paid – all overhead consists of t-shirts, medals and perhaps bibs along with shipping envelopes; that’s pretty much it.
More and more, actual (analog?) races and race series are offering virtual options to allow runners who might miss one race out of a series to still complete the series, or just keep a race available for those who have something in their life come up that prevents them from doing it ‘this year’. Sure, it’s on the honor system and a runners time won’t be eligible for rewards of any kind in the actual race-event, but it’s fun and flexible and you can accomplish something you wanted to do.
There is also the ability to run training programs from anywhere in the world by giving the program a virtual component. My free Couch-to-5k group is like that. (Destination YOU!). I post the workouts on the Facebook group page, I offer all the relevant information, videos and links so that anyone anywhere can keep up with the actual group, ask questions, post pictures and even stay up to date with our guest speakers. The current session of the Destination YOU! C25k program has a target race that is also virtual (if one so desires and/or lives out of town, state or country): “TMC Get Moving Tucson 5k” (October 29th).
Virtual racing won’t be for everyone but it does offer an additional avenue that did not exist before; allowing for more and diverse participation – and that’s a good thing.