Virtual races. Kind of a new buzz word (words?) gaining in popularity within the running world.
Virtual races are organized usually around (or in support of) a general theme. More often than not, they are fundraisers for a charity or benefactor. Many are scheduled to take part on a specific day, but most allow the participants to run the "event" at their leisure over the course of a few days or weeks, in their own home town.
Since these are used to fund raise and promote awareness of the benefactor(s), there is usually a minimal fee ($25-$30), but this can vary if there are t-shirts available or finisher medals commemorating the event. You do have the option to simply just run these races for free, but you will not be in the loop for prizes (yes, some of these virtual events have real prizes for the registered participants!).
So, why do a "virtual" race when there are plenty of "real" races to choose from? Actually, depending on where you reside, the events may not be so plentiful. For example, I live in a medium-sized town in Iowa. I have some larger cities within 1-2 hours of drive time that have races, but it's not always convenient for me to drive those 1-2 hours. (I have a husband, and two kids still at home.....and I enjoy spending time with all of them). Our son is on the high school swim team, almost every weekend in December and January, he has a swim meet (and we want to watch and support him and his team). Our youngest daughter is an accomplished dancer, and is a member of her studio's competition team. She has dance competitions almost every weekend in February. So, for myself, that's three months with limited availability for weekend racing.
Did I mention that I live in Iowa? Winter in Iowa is not only cold, but also very unpredictable. There are no guarantees if I may happen to score a free weekend, that the weather will also have "ideal race temps." (Recently, I had a free weekend, and ran in a nearby race...in the extreme wind and near-zero degree temps)
I haven't been a big fan or participant of virtual races, until recently. I want to be a better distance runner, and you become a better distance runner by running long distances, year-round (not just during the race season). So far, my virtual resume' includes a couple of half marathons, and a 10K. Last week, we were blessed with temps in the mid-40's, so I took advantage and did a virtual 14K ..I almost didn't get that completed before the event's end-of-the-month deadline. I have another virtual half scheduled for this month, and one in March as well.
How does one participate in a virtual race? You can find the events online. Most will have a link to take you to their website, where you can register. Most events give you options on what distance you want to run (5K, 10K, half or full marathon). Some events take place on a specific date, others will give you some allowance on when you can run your event (many will also allow you to run the distance in increments). I prefer to run the distance all in one outing, but there are no satellite cameras watching me....if I need to loop back to my house for a pit stop, I do it (guilt-free). Some events also encourage you to post your "finish times" after you have completed the race, and you may even win a prize for doing so.
Why, oh why, am I doing these? As mentioned, I want to stay on track with my distance training, and by having an event on my calender (real or virtual), helps me stay consistent with my running. Sure, I could simply run the long distances for free, but when I pay for a virtual event I have the satisfaction of also supporting a cause greater than myself, and if I get a decent run completed (and a medal to show for my efforts)....well, all the better. I'd call that a win-win.
Have you ever done a virtual event? What cause or charity did you support in doing so?