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Why Virtual Races Are One Runner’s Secret Weapon

As a single mom who works full-time but also has ambitious running goals to conquer (training for another Boston Marathon), you would think I would race more.

The truth is, my weekends are so jam-packed that it is hard to find time just to grocery shop! Most of my training runs are done in the early (before the sun is up) hours of the day. I know races are a great way to keep my training schedule on track, and they also give me a better idea for how I’ll perform during my goal race. But driving to a race, racing, and driving home from a race eats up such a large chunk of weekend that over the last few years, racing has somehow managed to slip off of my training plan.

Not anymore. I’ve got a new secret weapon: Virtual races.

Why virtual races?

When I first started running, virtual races were done on the honor system (you email someone at some random blog you follow your time and they just trust that is what you did). There was no swag, or if there was it was something cheeky like a T-shirt that read “I ran this virtual race and all I got was this shirt.”

Now? Virtual races are a key piece of my training pie. There are entire sites dedicated to virtual races such as Will Run For Bling and Virtual Strides.

Most virtual races now not only include a T-shirt in return for submitting your time (most now require you submit it via a GPS-tracked app such as RunKeeper or MapMyRun) but also include medals, and even virtual leaderboards to see how you stacked up against other runners in your age and gender brackets.

Which virtual races?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who enjoys virtual races. Here in Massachusetts, the hugely popular (and often quite crowded) Falmouth Road Race, allowed virtual runners to pay $40 to run the course remotely using an app created by a company called Outside Interactive. People who ran virtually were emailed their bibs, a finisher’s certificate, and all the same swag that the folks at the in-person race got.

And, the site “Will Run for Bling,” founded in 2013, is one of the virtual-only race leaders putting on about 12 races a year, each with anywhere from 500 to 700 racers.

But how do you pick the right virtual race? Never fear, I’ve rounded three of my favorites for you to try if you can’t make it out the door to an in-person race but want that adrenaline rush and, quite frankly, that darn medal around your neck!

Run Now, Wine Later

This one has a fun medal, and I love the idea of enjoying a nice glass of wine on my own porch after a good race instead of having to fumble to get a beer or wine ticket off of my bib at an in-person race. Plus, I drank my bubbly in the tub after running 13.1 hilly miles around my neighborhood. Wine in tub = Far superior to waiting in line at in-person race for portapotty.

The details: The entry fee is $25 – $30 per event (5k, 10k, half marathon options) and even allows treadmill miles. A glittery medal is mailed to you after you submit your time, and you also get a virtual race packet that includes your bib emailed to you. The proceeds from the virtual race to go support an end-of-life charity that serves terminally-ill adults and their families.

Running Through The Fall

If you need a virtual run that will help keep your training on track, this may be the race for you. This race gives you 90 days to complete 150 miles and ends with you submitting your miles and getting a fun fall-themed medal. Registration costs $25- $30 and gets you a shirt, bib, and medal. This race supports the American Kidney Fund. I love this race, because consistency is a key to training and this race helps ensure I log my miles and don’t skip any training days since I have that medal at the end as motivation.

One Tough Mother Runner

I’m going to be honest with you, I do this race just for the awesome medal because I am a huge fan of Rosie the Riveter. This race, in honor of Mother’s Day, is dedicated to Moms. There’s a 5k, 10k, and half marathon option. This race also has a race bib, and you get your medal after you upload your results onto their site. The charity supported by this race is called Family Lives On, which supports children who are grieving the deaths of their parents.

I hope to see you at my next (virtual) race! Happy running!