Virtual Racing: Make It Into a Race You Love

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runner with phoneLast month, I ran my first virtual race, organized as a way to support local running shops during their store closures. While virtual races have existed for years, many local race organizers have cancelled their in-person races and gone “virtual” for this summer. Honestly, I’ve never loved big races (I stress myself out too much), but I typically run 1-3 per year with friends, or for a cause I want to support. Now that I tried a virtual race, I want to share some aspects that I LOVED. I also enlisted input from numerous running friends about the perks of virtual racing (and some tips we have to make it a truly fun experience).

The basics of virtual races: for most races, you will register online for your chosen distance and then receive your printable race bib electronically (most do not require you to wear the bib to race). You will also receive a link to report your results once you complete the race. Some virtual races mail out the race swag immediately so you have it on hand; other races ask you to submit your results and mail it out after that. Race swag might include medals, stickers, or temporary tattoos, and for many you can choose to order a race shirt for an additional fee. Most virtual races will have a set window of dates for you to complete the race within, so make sure you pay attention to the final date for submitting your results.

Virtual Race Highlights

  • You get to use your own bathroom (no waiting in line for porta-potties at the start)
  • There’s flexibility to pick the day and time for good running conditions
  • You start when you’re ready; no standing around waiting, waiting, waiting
  • Your first mile won’t be overcrowded, weaving in and out between people
  • You create your own course, and can run it before race day…and make sure to avoid gigantic hills
  • Your family can run/bike with you on different segments to keep you going
  • Without other runners on the course, it’s a personal time trial where it’s truly a test of what you alone are capable of
  • It’s easier to focus on the run and your distance accomplishment, and not think about the competitive part of racing

Virtual Race Tips

  • Create a route that passes porta-potties in case you need one along the way
  • Create some starting line hype/excitement by playing an inspiring song and having someone shoot a water blast to start your race
  • If there are other people running on your course, pass them to help recreate the fun of “picking off” other racers
  • Recruit your own spectators and support crew, especially for a longer distance race
  • While it may not be an “official” chipped race time, have more than one timer going (your watch, your spouse’s phone timer, etc) in case one piece of equipment fails
  • Recruit a friend to act as a pacer to help you reach your goal time/PR
  • Set up a finish line and have snacks and water ready, so you can celebrate your accomplishment in style
  • Take a photo with your medal, even if it arrives in a few weeks
My 7-year-old told me to flex my muscles for my medal photo. And yes, that’s a toilet paper-shaped medal to commemorate the toilet paper shortages this spring.

Do you have a virtual race on your calendar for this summer or fall? Share it below!

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