When you run a road race you show up to the start line for the appointed start time and run the prescribed route with hundreds or thousands of other runners. Along the route you’ll be offered water and snacks as enthusiastic crowds cheer you on to the next mile marker. All of this describes the experience of running an actual race, but virtual races have been steadily gaining popularity among runners who want to customize a race to suit their tastes and schedules. For a registration fee much smaller than for an actual race, you’ll receive a bib to wear during the run and a medal to show your friends.
The Reality of Virtual Road Races
For runners who want to give virtual road races a try you have a number of choices. There are monthly, mileage, and step programs to fit the fitness levels of all runners. You can also join various clubs like a 5K club or a half marathon club (source). You have the freedom to choose your route and start time to suit you. For example, if you decide to run a Valentine’s Day 10K you can run it through your neighborhood, on a track or even at home on your treadmill. Most races have early morning start times, but if you’d prefer to sleep in you can start your race in the afternoon or early evening if you wish. I’m in the habit of doing a lot of my long runs overnight so an official 7:00am start time is an adjustment for me.
Virtual Race, Real Results
The virtual world created by social media platforms has made virtual road races not just possible, but a growing phenomenon. Runners form online clubs, post pictures and race results and trade tips. These virtual communities can bring together runners from all over the world who would have otherwise never met. Virtualrunning.com has a popular Facebook page where runners of all ages and experience levels can go to share their passion with others (source). Virtual road races may never replace the immediacy and camaraderie that come with competing in an actual race surrounded by fellow runners, but if you’re looking for convenient and affordable alternatives, to traditional races, give one a try.