Friday, September 12, 2014

What is a Virtual Race? A Guide to Virtual Racing

In anticipation of the upcoming Running with Ollie BIG 4-0 Virtual Four Mile Fun Run, Scavenger Hunt, and Giveaway, I've decided to devote a blog post to virtual racing. This is everything you need to know to start participating in virtual races.

If you've seen some virtual races online and not really sure what they are all about, or had some questions about virtual racing, this is the resource for you.

A Guide to Virtual Racing

What is a virtual race?
A virtual race is an event that can be completed in your own location. You decide where you will run it, you map out your own race route, run or walk the designated miles, and report your participation online. You can run it in your neighborhood, on local trails, on a track, on a treadmill, or even at a local organized race. The beauty of a virtual race is that you choose the location!

What are the different types of virtual races?
Some virtual races are set up as charity fundraisers. In these virtual races you usually pay a registration fee, in which a portion will go to a charity. In exchange for your registration fee, which will vary by event, you usually can expect to receive a t-shirt, a finishers medal, or a gift bag. Before paying a registration fee, I suggest doing some research on the legitimacy of the charity and the race host. The vast majority of charity virtual races are legit, but before you shell out your hard-earned money, do some checking to make sure you understand where your money is going.

Some virtual races (like the Running with Ollie Big 4-0 virtual four mile run) are 100% free and are put together to motivate runners and walkers, build an online community, and to raise awareness of a blog or brand.

Why do people participate in virtual races?
Virtual races can be used as a motivation or training tool. Once you commit to the miles, you'll want to get out there and follow through. Another reason people participate in virtual races is because there may not be any traditional organized races nearby and it is fun way to be a part of a bigger running community without having to travel anywhere.

Is there a packet pick up? Will I get a race bib? How about a medal?
Some paid races will send you a bib in the mail, but the free virtual races usually offer a printable bib. You can choose whether you wear it or not. Many people hold up their race bib for the camera when sharing their experience online or on social media.

Some virtual races will send you a medal upon completion. These races usually have a registration fee to cover the cost of the medal.

How do I know how far I ran?
Since you don't have the benefit of a preplanned race course with mile markers in a virtual race, you will have to figure out how to log the distance you will run. If you don't have a GPS watch to track your mileage, there are a couple of other ways to document your distance. There are websites like Map My Run that allow you to create your own race (or training) route online. You can also use running apps like RunKeeper or Runtastic that use the GPS on your phone to log your distance. If all that technology is too much for you, you could simply get in your car and map out the mileage in your car.

Map My Run

Should I time myself?
Sure, but I wouldn't worry too much about getting it down to the exact second. If you don't have a GPS watch or other timer, you can just take note of the time you left and the time you returned to figure out your approximate finishing time, although it doesn't really matter in a virtual race. Some virtual races will post a results page after the run where participants can self-report their finishing times. If winners are announced, it is not usually based on finishing time, but by random drawing.

I ran a virtual race, now what?
Share it on social media. After all, what good is a virtual race if you run it and don't tell anyone! The whole point of a virtual race is to share it virtually! Often times virtual races will have designated hastags so you can find the other participants on social media and they can find you.

How do they know if I really ran it?
They don't. Virtual races are based on the honor system. If you didn't want to run it, you probably wouldn't have signed up. And those that collect money for charities probably don't really care if you ran it or not. It's up to you to run it because you want to!

Where can I find virtual races to enter?
Great question! You can sign up and run the Running with Ollie BIG 4-0 Virtual Four Mile Fun Run, Scavenger Hunt and giveaway now for free! You can run it anytime between 9/21/14-10/4/14. There is also a big giveaway and 14 winners will be selected by random drawings. Register now!

The Running with Ollie virtual four mile fun run, scavenger hunt, and giveaway!

After you run the Running with Ollie virtual race, you might decide you've been bitten by the virtual race bug.

You can search for virtual races, look for virtual racing groups on Facebook (like this one), or follow some running blogs, and you're sure to find plenty of virtual races! As another resource, Jost Running has regular monthly virtual races.

So what are you waiting for? Have you signed up for the Running with Ollie FREE virtual race from 9/21-10/5?

Register below or click on the link here to register.

Have you ever participated in a virtual race? Are you signed up for the Running with Ollie Virtual Race? Do you have any tips for virtual racing? Did I miss anything?

Like this post? Please consider sharing. Challenge your friends!

Keep Running,


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  1. This is really helpful! I can say I didn't really understand virtual races, but I see they can be really cool. Maybe I'll try one in the future!

  2. I hosted a virtual run as a fundraiser last year and I participated in one. The fun part of virtual runs is the different designs that you get for the medals.

  3. I am looking forward to it! I am doing the SkirtSports 10on10 virtual run this weekend!

  4. I participated in the Jost Running Derby Home Run race in August and am doing the Skirt Sports #10on10 tomorrow! I am also signed up for your race as well! I can't wait! Love the motivation it gives me to get out there and run faster!

  5. I am doing the Skirt Sports 10on10 tomorrow and am signed up for this race. I love races as motivation for training. Virtual races fill the void between other races and keep me out and running. Love virtual races even though I only recently discovered them!

    1. a lot of people are doing the Skirt Sports! I need to check this one out!!!

  6. Virtual runs are perfect for me... I am to lazy to travel for a race and I really have no desire to deal with the crowds either. I am excited about this one. I have never done one with a scavenger hunt thrown in. One to check it is Virtual Nerd Runs. I am a sucker for their corny movie and TV show themed medals LOL.

  7. So excited to participate in our first virtual run!

  8. What a well written guide! Good job!

    We would also love to be considered as a resource for virtual races. We donate a portion of the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project and publish and accountability report each month on our Facebook page for the money we raise. Please come take a look

  9. Love this post! I ran your 5k and fell in love! I'm hosting my own - with all proceeds going to Stand Up To Cancer! I would love it if you joined in on the fun!


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