The Rise of Virtual Races

A special Saturday message

Since most of us have been running alone and doing a fairly good job of maintaining socal distancing, I wanted to forward a little advice, before next week's regular TMBC email.

1.  Social Distancing on Trails.  If you are like me, all your running these days is on trails, which are more crowded than usual with people out to escape their homes with a little exercise/sunshine.  This often leads to more challenges when we are trying to be socially conscious and protect the Herd.  If you are running and you overtake another runner or walker on the trail, please let them know where you are by announcing yourself - I just say "Socal Distancing" - and move around the person to give them that 6' wide berth - just like we used to announce "Track" when we overtook in College and High School track practices.  If you can give it even more than 6 feet, please do, as runners' breathing is more pronounced than most while in action (thus spraying a little further than normal), so 6 feet might not be enough.

2.  Even the Big Guy Misses Races.  While I don't race nearly as much as I used to, I was looking forward to trying to run a better 5k this Spring than the Resolutions & Predictions race.  Unfortunately, the Crystal City Twilighters were cancelled, a small disappointment for me compared to you Boston Marathoners, Rock and Roll Half and Full Marathoners, Cherry Blosson Ten-Milers, and other big racers.  Fortunately, necessity is the Mother of Invention, and "Virtual Racing" has taken off.  Several of you have been running virtual races, as evidenced by Strava ("If it's not on Strava, it did not happen!"  ;-)  ) and our own Liz Kakouris Ozeki threw down an amazing 63:33 "Virtual Cherry Blossom" Ten-Miler - that's 6:21 miles, and without anyone to pace or compete against - way to go Liz!  I just read an Article on the New York TImes website about virtual races, and I include it below (although the original has great links in it) for your Saturday reading pleasure.

Keep up the good work, protecting your community by staying inside for everything except necessary grocery/drug store visits, and the solitary exercise that is keeping us sane and healthy in these troubled times.  Keep washing your hands, wear a mask and gloves when you do venture out, maintain social distancing, and I promise we will make it to the other side when the CDC will allow us back out to run together and compete in real races!

Best/ Coach Big Guy

(Article Below)

The Rise of Virtual Runs

Dear Readers,
With races around the world canceled, on hold or up in the air, a new kind of event is gaining traction: virtual races.

When I wrote about virtual races in March of last year, they were like accouterments to traditional races. Now, with those races on long-term pause, virtual experiences are the only option most runners have. In virtual races, runners complete a race more or less on their own schedule, at whatever location they choose, then log in and record their results. Runners may be running alone, but can still feel as if they're part of a larger group.

RunSignup, a race registration platform, has seen an uptick in the number of virtual races created through their website. In some cases, when an event is canceled, the race will offer a virtual option, said Johanna Goode, director of marketing at RunSignup. The company is also seeing "race companies who do a lot of events and are looking at multiple cancellations this year" creating new kinds of virtual challenges.

"Pre-Covid virtual runs tended to market themselves on cool swag for a specific, one-time distance," she said. "Post-Covid, I'm seeing a lot more longer-term challenges or programs that give people something to do over a longer period of time." She cites a 19-day quarantine virtual challenge and a challenge to run 50 or 100 miles by April 30 as creative examples of new events.

Jason Hershman never put on a race before but decided to launch a virtual run/walk to benefit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund. On May 1, participants pledge to run or walk for one hour and, if they have social media, share their experience online. The cost is $20.

"During this social distance period, I still have been able to get my daily runs in, which has been nice considering it is spring and I am able to go while the sun is out," said Hershman, who had been scheduled to run the Boston Marathon later this month (it's been moved to September). After returning from one such run to yet "more awful news," he said, he looked to see if there were any virtual events to raise money for coronavirus relief. When he couldn't find one, he created one.

I've seen a lot of these events coming online in the last few weeks, and there's just about something for everyone. Matt Chittim of the Rambling Runner, for example, started a virtual run series that began last weekend with a 5K on March 27 to 29. The virtual race builds to a 10k this weekend, a half marathon April 17 to 19, and a full marathon May 15 to 17. Healthy Kids Running is starting a spring race series, a five week program, on April 17 for kids.
If you read this in time, you can still jump into the Personal Peak Quarantine Backyard Ultra, which starts today at 9 a.m. Eastern time. Participants have one hour to run a 4.167-mile loop — in their neighborhood, on a treadmill, or wherever they are. Then, at the top of the next hour, you repeat the loop again. And the following hour, again. And again. Last man or woman standing wins. I've run a race like this in the past (in Canada, with other people). It starts out easy, then becomes agony. It's fun.

And if you don't want to do any of those things, that's OK too. I'm still just trying to get out with my dog for a half-hour, five to six days a week. That's about all I have in me right now. We're all figuring out how to muddle along, six feet apart.

If you're still disappointed in your race being canceled, that's OK. Olympians and Paralympians and hopefuls feel the same way. Here's a video about those dreams deferred.

Run Well!
Jen A. Miller
Author, "Running: A Love Story"


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