Is Virtual Running the Future of Racing?
Have you heard of virtual races? RunSocial is one option which allows runners to run races like the Prague Digital Marathon remotely.
Some virtual races occur at the same time as real-world races, while many more are standalone events. Some are free; others cost money. Some give out running apparel such as shirts and completion medals; others don’t. Have you tried virtual racing?
If you haven’t, racing free of cost is something that can be very appealing to many people, especially those under tight incomes. I myself, a runner who has migrated from the East Coast to the West Coast, have discovered a spike in registering costs for local races, especially those geared around charities. While I certainly love contributing $45.00 to a great cause, it is not something I can afford every weekend.
There also no travel costs associated with holding a virtual race. Also, you get the choice of electing your own difficulty of course. Perhaps you are a runner who opts for more flat or downhill running versus a strenuous and demanding uphill course.
Remote entrants typically receive a downloadable bib, finisher’s certificate, and the race’s official swag—plus guaranteed entry into the live event. Running has already also made its presence felt through all of social media technology (see Tricks For Making Your Running More Fun and Social) : Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Facebook running groups in particular have led to a higher number of participants and members joining their specific running club.
Virtual running has attracted those who run have busy lives and know they have a generous nine-day time span to finish each race. (see 4 Reasons to Run While You’re Travelling)
Other runners like that they can break up the run into shorter segments and still get credit for completing the race. And, virtual running has also taken a strong foothold for families and neighbors who want to compete amongst themselves without having to go through the hard work involved in garnering outside participants to register.
RunSocial has the technology to allow runners to compete as relay teams, and they can be in the same place or all around the world. And, runners more and more have used apps to measure their distance, routes, and set individuals goals for themselves.
Is virtual racing the future of racing? For some runners the answer is yes. For other runners like myself, I elect to run in person a big race like a half marathon because I am there for the crowd and the physical running atmosphere. I am there for the wave and gun starts, sound of rubber hitting pavement, and countless stranger screams on the sidelines telling you to keep the pace or push it.
However, this is just my personal preference as a runner. At the same token, I am often a runner who just likes to show up right on the spot. I don’t always know what my racing plans are (as I am spontaneous) and I prefer in person races that allow for on-site registration. I can see the real-time benefit of virtual races as they not only allow you to choose the time you race but they also allow you time to choose when you want to sign up for the race, and when you want to create a virtual race on your own.
As runners, we have to discover what best works for us and our own schedules. Also, we have to find the races that more fit our niche. If you are a very casual runner, 5k runs that are often labeled as jogs/walks and go towards a specific fundraising community are probably your best bet. Also, if you are someone who needs entertainment while running, then the color or light runs might be your cup of tea. And, if you’re a competitive distance runner aiming for a specific time and goal, then USATF certified courses and ones like the Rock N Roll series held across the country are up your alley.
It is great the running community has opened its doors to give runners a multitude of options to keep them motivated to run, stay healthy, and build a digital platform for racing. This will certainly open the door for a new wave of digital marketing and perhaps even digital marketing agencies themselves creating their own virtual racing events. Imagine a company that has all their team members sign up for a virtual race together to promote unity and collaboration, and a healthy lifestyle? The thought isn’t far-fetched and businesses are already latching onto the concept!
Where can you find out about virtual races? All you have to do is essentially put virtual races into Google and see the results pour out!
Where do you see the virtual running community evolving from here? Will there be even more technology that will change how we as runners see and view the sport? Feel free to share below your thoughts!