What is a Virtual Race?

What is a Virtual Race?

virtual race

It seems like everywhere I look on social media these days someone is posting their race results or showing off their latest bling…from a virtual race.

Huh? Is this some kind of video game for runners?

Not quite.

Virtual races are becoming wildly popular because they offer the flexibility to run where and when it is convenient for you. And, of course, there’s always a medal – a big plus for those runners who like to show off the fruits of their labors.

Here’s how it works:

Choose a race and sign up online. There’s usually a fee of around $20-$35, a portion of which is usually donated to a designated charity. Complete your run within the allotted time frame (typically one week, but, sometimes, you have up to a full month). While you’re running, track your time/distance with either a smartphone app or a GPS watch, then submit your results to the race organizers to receive your bling: a medal, T-shirt, or other gift.

That’s it! Easy as pumpkin pie.

Personally, I think this is an awesome way to work towards a goal, benefit a worthy cause, and have fun all at the same time. But this type of race might not be for everyone. To help you decide, I’ve put together a list of pros and cons:



    • Flexibility.
      A virtual race can be done when and where it is convenient for you. In other words, there’s no getting up at 4am to find parking before a 7am start time. And hate hilly courses? Not a problem with a virtual race. You get to choose your own route and increase your chances of a PR. You can even do your race on a treadmill, which is awesome during bad weather.


    • Cost.
      Virtual races can be less expensive than in-person races – especially those that are of longer distances. Since there’s almost no overhead associated with this type of event, you reap the benefits. Run a half-marathon and get a medal for under $50? Yes, please!


    • Social connections.
      Most virtual races have a Facebook page (or similar community) where you can post results, pictures, comments, and cheer on other runners.


    • Sanitation.
      With a virtual run, there’s no need to pee in a Port-a-Potty. For me, this alone is worth the price of admission.


    • Super-cool race medal!
      Most 5Ks (and some 10Ks) don’t offer a medal to participants – just a free banana and cotton race T. Virtual races, however, almost always have a really nice medal to add to your collection.


  • Accessibility.
    There are some parts of the world where public races are few and far between (it’s hard to imagine, I know). If you’re a runner who happens to live in a place like this, it can be really frustrating! A virtual race removes that problem by bringing the race to you.



    • No free banana.
      Although I don’t really like bananas – so, for me, this isn’t really a con.


    • Np spectators.
      There’s nobody waiting at the finish line or along the race course cheering you on and holding up signs.


    • Ditto for water stations.
      And, if you throw your empty water bottle on the ground in a virtual race, you might get fined for littering.


    • No race day excitement!
      This is one of the best parts of a race! The thrill of running with a group always spurs me to do my absolute best and dig deep to cross the finish line strong. However, if you’re an introvert and don’t like crowds, this could actually be a benefit.


  • Logistics.
    You have to figure out your own route. There are no volunteers telling you where to turn or making sure that the roads are clear.


Final Thoughts

Personally, I think that virtual races are really fun. However, I run them in addition to my in-person races, not in place of them.

If you’re interested in a virtual event, check out these links to see if there’s one coming up that interests you:

Will Run for Bling


virtual race

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Jill Angie

Jill is a personal trainer, coach, runner, triathlete, blogger and author, who wants to live in a world where everyone is free to feel fit and fabulous at any size. She writes about the joys and challenges of being a curvy runner, and shares her experiences, knowledge and expertise to help her readers embrace their inner athlete. In addition to running, she has an unbridled passion for kettlebells, cupcakes, champagne, fuchsia and murder mysteries (not necessarily in that order).

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