A virtual race is an event which can be run or walked from any location the athlete choices. The athlete can run or walk on the road, on the trail, on a treadmill or on the track. The athlete runs the race at their own pace and times it themselves.

Columbus Health Commissioner, Dr. Mysheika Roberts, an avid runner herself, states virtual races can be valuable for runners. “Most humans strive with some type of schedule and order to our day and goals that we want to attain. So I think it's important to people to still keep to their running plan, their running goals, and their milestones and to be able to achieve something at the end of it such as a t-shirt and a medal or some type of award”.

Because of the guidelines set during the COVID-19 pandemic, group running is no longer an option.  Virtual races allow runners to take part in the event, on their own time within the set dates and in their own space.

The Columbus Race for a Cure offered a virtual option over ten years ago in case a participant didn’t want to go downtown for the event.  However, virtual runs have become the races of 2020.

The Arnold 5K and Arnold 5K Pump & Run which I co-directed held on Sunday, March 8th was on the last weekend that road races could be held in Ohio. 

A normal road race has a number of expenses a virtual race does not have such as: permits, police and medical personnel cost, timing company cost per runner, race numbers, safety pins and a number of other items.

I have used four various timing companies for the races I have directed over the past forty years.  Most timing companies charge a fee for setting up a web site and registration and result page. I have been charge as much as $1,000 for the timing company to show up and an additional cost per runner.  Even for a virtual race there can be cost from $500 -$750, but there is no additional fee per runner.  Most virtual races like typical road races still buy t-shirts and finishing medals or some type of award. The upcoming virtual races I am involved with athletes can print out their customized race number and a finisher certificate.  Since virtual runs do not have all of the fixed cost of a typical road race, entry fees may be less.  The cost of mailing out t-shirts and awards are part of the entry fee for virtual races but not for most typical road races.

Ted Rupe a long time runner, race director and owner of Gopher A Run timing company wishes he could do a typical road race but has been forced to convert several of the races that he times into a virtual event.

He feels the advantages of virtual races include:

-  Makes the runner feel like they are a part of something and offers something to train for.

-  Can save on expenses since we can order the exact number of shirts since only have pre registration.

 -  Save on expenses with awards also since I do not feel comfortable offering awards when contestants are not running head to head.

 

Probably the down side of the virtual events includes:

-  Not really competing when you are emailing in performances

-  It would be very easy to cheat on times, but I would hope people would realize there is no benefit to that especially when there are no awards

-  The entire social aspect of a road race is a big reason why people participate and of course that is gone with a virtual event

 Athletes in the races I am having the Columbus Running Company race timing director Andy Harris helping to organize include the use of RaceJoy (the athlete can choose to use it or not) to add to the participant’s race experience with these key features:

 

GPS Progress Alerts

Receive GPS-based progress alerts at mile points on the course for current pace and estimated finish time.

Post to your Facebook and Twitter walls.

Have friends and family track your performance.

 

Live GPS Tracking

Supporting spectators can track your blue dot moving along the course from home or at the race site.

NearMe proximity alerts notify spectators when you are drawing near.

Find each other using RaceJoy’s MeetUp tool.

 

Send-a-Cheer

Receive fun, motivational audio cheers from your supporting fans.

Start sending cheers to others doing the race at any time.

 

The Jeff McGowan Memorial 5K -  http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/95-jeff-mcgowan-memorial-5k and Circleville Classic - http://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/102-the-33rd-annual-circleville-classic-is-a-virtual-event are sponsoring RaceJoy to provide participants and spectators these features for free (normally a 99 cents upgrade fee for both the participant and spectator).

Enjoy your next virtual race and I hope to see you at a race sometime soon.