I’ll admit – I had NO CLUE what a virtual race was until last year. I kept hearing about them – but just ignored it until someone asked if we (MRTT) was going to have one. Well – I figured it was time to learn what they were and how to run one ;)
So here are the basics:
- What is a virtual race? A virtual race is a “race” that can be run anywhere you are – no specific starting time or starting place… Occasionally they have specific dates, or sometimes the dates will range a week or two to give you time to finish it. Just pick your favorite running path or trail and RUN.
- What is the distance for virtual races? They can be ANY distance!! There is the 12athon that is 12 miles on the 12th of every month – or 6 miles if you are on the “JV team”… There is the Joggermom Marathon where you run 26.2 miles (marathon distance) – but you have a MONTH to complete it!! So you only have to run about a mile a day!!! Then there are typical distances like 5k, 10k, etc like the W3 Westminster Women’s Classic Virtual Race
- How much do they cost? Virtual races can either be free or cost $$ – usually if they cost $$ the money will go to a charity, you get a race shirt or swag bag, or it means there will be some pretty great prizes involved for the “winners”. Sometimes the freebie virtual races get prizes involved – or sometimes it’s for the sheer motivation of getting you out the door for a run.
- What if I’m not fast? Doesn’t matter!! Most virtual races do NOT go by time since there is no way to compare courses, terrain, weather, or prove distance/times are accurate. Most virtual races will just have you submit a time to show you did it – but all prizes (if any) are drawn at complete random!!! So technically someone that WALKS can win the grand prize – and someone that runs a 5 minute mile may not get anything at all!! Works out for all of us who aren’t speed demons ;)
- Do I need a garmin or some proof to show my time/distance? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Most work on the honor system – some require you show proof via ipod app, garmin, motoactv or other gps watch, etc. if there is a big prize involved. Photos with “race bibs” and plotting your course or showing any watch (even if it’s not a gps watch) sometimes counts – so just check with the race beforehand.
- What if I can’t complete the entire distance yet? We never encourage you to push too hard too fast, but if you are only up to running 1 mile and it’s a virtual 5k – consider WALKING the last 2 miles! Remember in most virtual races, pace doesn’t matter. If it’s a virtual 10k or Half marathon – we recommend you just sit this one out and wait for the next virtual race to come along. You NEVER want to push yourself too hard too fast – an injury can sideline you for quite a while and the ultimate goal is building you up slowly. There are ALWAYS virtual races…. don’t worry!!!
- How do I find a good course that is 3.1 miles (or whatever the race distance may be)?? GPS watches are great as are iPhone apps like RunKeeper – you can literally just head out there and RUN till the distance is half way, turn around and run back….. but if you don’t have a GPS watch or iphone, you can actually use tools like Map My Run or Run Keeper to literally plot out your run BEFORE you go! Hit the button for “snap to roads” and it will be easier to plot. You can even go old school and DRIVE a course. Start at the beginning of a neighborhood, reset your odometer in your car and start driving. Personally, I think plotting on Run Keeper or Map My Run is easier because you can see where neighborhood roads loop back around and it will be easier for you to run an “out and back” (run to a point and run back) or a “loop” (start in one place and run a circle till you end at the starting point). There is another option for a “point to point” (start in one spot and end in another) but may not be the best option unless you have someone to pick you up at the end… remember you gotta get back SOMEHOW haha. My neighborhood is conveniently 1.6 miles around so I usually just run it twice if I want to do a 5k! Maybe yours is similar where you can run it a few times or just out and back.
If you have any other questions about virtual races let us know in the comments below and we will answer them!!!