10 Things About Virtual Races

Full disclosure: I’m mildly under the weather as I type this. No big deal, just a sore throat and some congestion. No flu or anything. Just a little going-away present from the guy manspreading next to me on the airplane for four and a half hours on Tuesday. I’m not mad. I mean, part of me really hopes he steps on a Lego, but I’m not mad.

Anyway, the congestion part tends to give me what I like to call “fuzzy brain”. If you want to know if I’m in my right mind at the moment the answer is a resounding “probably not”. As a direct result, I’m writing a short post about something I don’t have to do very much research about so I can drink more orange juice, take some medicine, diffuse some nice smelling oils (because I like them), and go to bed.

I’m currently working on two virtual challenges and have just finished a third. I started my first one in the second week of January. It gets addicting fast. Since in the writing world, everything we do is pretend, this seems to be right up my alley. Right now I have no idea how this would actually help anyone world build better or create more distinctive characters. Perhaps if I had a few more days to let my head clear out, I could come up with something brilliant, but I’m on a deadline so it is what it is.

10 things you might not know about virtual races:

  1. They can be just about any distance you want. There are everything from 5ks to challenges that are for hundreds of miles. It’s really all about what you want to try.
  2. You can run them completely on your own time, or find one that is set for a specific day. If you want to do a ninety-mile challenge over the course of a couple of months on the treadmill at your local gym (yes, I’m referring to myself), there’s a virtual race for that. But if you’d rather run your 5k on the same day and time as everyone else, just not beside everyone else, there are companies that host those kinds of challenges too. You run on the course of your choosing and then report back your time.
  3. You can still get a T-shirt and finisher’s medal like at your local races. Usually, when you register for a local race, your registration fee covers your event shirt and your medal (some races do charge more for these items, but not all). Virtual racers get the same option. You get your shirt sent to you when you register for the challenge and get your medal after you’ve completed the challenge.
  4. You can keep track of your progress through an app on your phone. When I finish on the treadmill at the gym, I enter my mileage for the day in my app and it keeps track of my progress. I even get positive encouragement/awards along the way to keep me motivated.
  5. There is still a community to get involved with. Most virtual race companies have message boards, Facebook pages, etc so their racers can build a community together. One of the groups I’m in I will say is just about the least judgemental, most supportive workout groups I’ve ever been in. Ever.
  6. You can choose a company or challenge that sends you virtual postcards. The company I’m currently using has some very long challenges (hundreds of miles). The challenges are themed along actual geographical routes (e.g. Route 66). For the really long races, as a way to keep you motivated, the company sends you a postcard from places along the route as you “pass them” in your mileage count.
  7. Just like your local race, you can choose to do a challenge for a charitable cause. One of the challenges I’m currently working on (I’m actually 91% complete!) is a fundraiser for wildlife rescue programs in Australia. Instead of getting a medal and a shirt for this one, 100% of my registration fee got donated to WIRES.
  8. You can choose a race/challenged themed by geographical location, distance, or even fandom. There are virtual races that cover trails/highways/paths from all over the world. There are races themed by fairy tales and literary characters. Some are only about distance. Even Disney hosts a virtual race that leads up to their RunDisney Marathon Weekend. If you can complete it in the given time frame, you can get a Star Wars medal. If you don’t think that’s even a little bit cool, why are you even on my website?
  9. There are challenges for more than just running/walking. There are challenges for swimming and cycling too. One person in the challenge community I participate in even completes her challenges on horseback because she is unable to run, but rides her horse every day. It’s really up to you how exactly you want to cover the distance.
  10. For most companies, it’s not any more expensive than the local race. Sometimes even less so. That means the cost can still be a barrier to some. I understand that. But it means that if the cost is not the barrier for your local 10k race, it won’t be a barrier for a virtual challenge either. Some companies even let you gift a registration fee for someone and then let them pick their own challenge.

So far, it’s been a great way to keep me motivated. If I’m not feeling better by my next scheduled gym day, I’ll actually be disappointed. Let me repeat: I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get to go to the gym and workout. I haven’t felt that way since my MMA instructor retired and I couldn’t find another that I liked (at least in my price range).

Anyway, there are my 10 things for this month. Hopefully, next month will involve more information and fewer boxes of Kleenex.

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