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Virtual Running: The Stress-Free Way to Race

For runners, there’s often nothing more motivating than participating in a race. The energy of the crowd and the excitement of accomplishing a goal can really get your adrenaline going. But let’s be honest…as exciting as a physical race is, it can also be extremely stressful.

If you’ve ever done a physical race, you’re well aware how much planning goes into prepping for race day logistics. With the average physical race, the following day-of  details have to be considered:

  • Race start time. Most physical races have very early start times, usually to beat rising temperatures or to allow roads to open back up for public use. When combined with other logistical planning, this can make for extremely early mornings.
  • Parking. No matter what, every physical race I’ve done has had challenging parking, which usually involves high traffic lines, long walks from parking to the start line, or even shuttle rides to and from the parking lot. With all of those factors come additional time you have to build into your day between waking up and starting your race. That’s not even talking about what you have to go through to leave the race after you’ve run.
  • Road closures. Since most physical races take place in public places, road closures around the race site are almost always a given. That means traveling to the race isn’t as simple as just jumping in the car. It involves researching alternate routes and leaving early in case there are issues.
  • Temperature. Sometimes an early start for a race can be good because it means you won’t get overheated during the race. But it also often means that you’re outside in bitterly cold temperatures. I don’t care how hot you get while you run, 26 degrees is COLD to run in.

With all those factors at play, participating in a physical race can be just as stressful as it is exhilarating. That’s why, when I first heard about virtual running, I was enthralled. Here was a way for me to avoid the inconveniences listed above but still get most of the benefits of a regular race, such as:

  • Motivation – without races, “training” and regular running becomes too ambiguous for me. Signing up for a race gives me an end goal and deadline, which motivates me to keep moving. Enter virtual racing!
  • Accountability – with a deadline set, I’m more accountable to myself to keep training and avoid long gaps in down time. It doesn’t matter that I set the deadline. It’s all mental, like most of running.
  • Reward – I’ll be honest, I’m all about the running bling! I love looking back at my race medals to remember my accomplishments. Virtual race events usually include the same types of rewards as regular races so that’s one more for the checklist.
  • Challenge – every time I sign up for a race, I view it as a new challenge, even if it’s a distance I’ve completed before. Each race is an opportunity to get a new PR. With virtual racing, I can choose between traditional race distances like a virtual 5k, 10k, 15k, and half marathon. However, I can also choose between distance challenges like 20, 50, or 100 miles, which I can break down over several weeks. What’s more – virtual racing offers the opportunity for you to customize your race to be whatever you want. I love this idea for several reasons:
  • The planning aspect. I’m a big planner so I enjoy planning the details of my next virtual run. I can pick fun and interesting locations, plan the race with friends, and even add my own fun twist to how I celebrate post-race. If you’re not a planner, then consider the opposite. Instead of planning around road closures, parking restrictions, and cold temperatures, you can make your run as simple as you want. Step out your door and start running if that’s what you want.
  • Fun vs work. Life is so busy, I’ve always disliked the idea of spending my time on things that offer no value to me. Sorting out the logistics of race-day parking is not fun for me. It’s work. If I spend the same time planning my next fantastic virtual run then at least that’s time spent for me.
  • No wasted time. Just like I hate spending time on race-day logistics, it drives me nuts to know how much time is wasted with a physical race. If the race starts at 7, I’m probably getting up between 4-5 a.m. I’ve been in physical races that have taken over an hour just to cross the start line from an end corral. That’s an awful lot of combined time that I could be doing other fun things, knocking out errands, or SLEEPING.
  • The important thing to remember is your virtual race is all about you! You can make it as big or small as you want, as long as you just keep running.