Virtual Races: Fad, Phase or Here to Stay

January 28, 2016 - 6 minutes read

For those of you that are not familiar with the concept, a virtual race is a race that can be completed from any location. Virtual races also give each participant the flexibility to choose the terrain that they run or walk on from the trails to pavement or the treadmill.

The process for most virtual races is simple:

  1. Find and register for an event
  2. Run or walk the specific distance from anywhere
  3. Submit your results to the organization.
  4. Receive your swag bag with your finisher’s medal in the mail.

The idea of a virtual race may seem like a strange concept for many to understand, especially for experienced athletes who look forward to the excitement that comes with race day. For a beginner runner,  virtual races can be a great way to transition from training to race day.

Is a virtual race something you might be interested in trying? Check out our list of pros and cons to help you decide whether running a virtual race is right for you.


The Flexibility to choose where, when and how to complete the race

The biggest benefit of running a virtual race is the flexibility each participant has to choose how and where they want to complete the race. Virtual races gives each participant the freedom to run or walk their distance anywhere- from the great outdoors or to your neighborhood gym. You pick where you are most comfortable.

Contribute or donate to a charity without having to travel a long distance.

Most virtual races are put on to raise money for great charities. Along with giving participants the freedom to choose how and where they run. Virtual races give individuals the ability to participant and contribute to the charities that matter the most to them, even if they are not being hosted locally.

Steer clear of the chaos that comes with race day

There is a lot of excitement that comes with the nerves of race day. Depending on the size of the event this excitement typically only comes after the frustration of sitting in traffic, parking, and waiting in long lines to get checked-in. Many beginner runners and walkers prefer the virtual race option as a way to support their favorite charity without the chaos that sometimes comes with race day.

Tabbatha on Facebook shared:

“As someone who has a hard time with crowds, HATES the traffic trying to park near a course, and generally stresses out about the times, weather, and whether or not something last minute could come up and ruin the money and time spent training- I think virtual races have something going for them”.

A lot of beginner runners can relate to Tabbatha that the chaos of race day can be a little intimidating and maybe deter them away from participating.

Builds an Online Community

Most virtual races have a Facebook page or some other community page where participants can view and post results and photos. These online outlets provide a great platform to network and share your progress with other participants.

You Still Get the T-Shirt

How else would people know that you participated, right? Most virtual events will mail out swag and medals after you submit your results. This means you will still be able to show off to your friends that you completed the race!


 Not a group activity

Although running isn’t  typically considered a “group” or “team” activity, the start line on race day often illuminates a camaraderie between all participants. When running in a virtual events it’s just you and the open road.. or whichever treadmill is open at the gym.

No fans cheering you on

Unless you plot your friends and family around town you most likely won’t have crowds or people cheering you on throughout the route. Being surrounded and sometimes passed by other runners and walkers can be great motivation to keep trucking-a -long. With virtual races you have to be your own motivator, which lets face it- can be really difficult to do.

You have to create your own route, timing and posting results

With freedom comes a little extra work. Virtual races require you to map out and measure your own route, You are also responsible for timing yourself and submitting your results to the race director by the deadline.

This is it?

Lastly, the moment we all look forward to, the finish line. With a virtual race you just stop running.. No balloons, ribbons, supporter cheering you on or a finishing photo. Only you and your selfie stick!

Virtual races have a lot to offer individuals that are self-motivated and enjoy the flexibility to choose how and when they complete a race. For those athletes that who look forward to training for a set race day and the experience that comes with it, virtual races are not going to be as  fulfilling.  Let us know what you think, are Virtual Races a phase, fad or here to stay?