When you run a “virtual” 5K, 10K, or half-marathon or marathon, you are out there pushing hard.

With no real end of the pandemic in sight, a lot of runners are starting to reconsider virtual races. After all, they may gotten a bit of a bad rap. First of all, let’s take the word “virtual.” That implies you are sitting in front of a screen, not really participating. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When you run a “virtual” 5K, 10K, or half-marathon or marathon, you are out there pushing hard. The only things missing are other runners and spectators. And even those can be incorporated. “For example, many Austin-area runners who ran the “virtual” Boston Marathon last month, did so in small group of three to five runners, with friends manning aid stations.

So yeah, virtual races can be pretty good. Here’s a few reasons why you should give them a try.

  • Most virtual races have the same format: select a distance, sign up and pay the registration fee. Following a virtual race, runners post their times online. Most virtual races have a place to record your time and submit it to the finishers results and some mail a finisher’s medal after the event.
  • Preparation for the real thing. OK, at some point there will be a return to real racing. And when that happens, you want to be ready. In many ways, a virtual race is like a time trial: a terrific workout, where it’s just you against the clock. Plus, they keep you motivated while training and help mentally prepare you for the real thing.
  • Keep those goals alive! If running is anything, it’s a goal-oriented sport. Goals keep you motivated and allow you to build your training with a clear destination in mind. Bottom line: specific goals motivates us to run. So when you sign up and commit to a virtual race, you hold your self accountable. It’s all part of the hard work/reward equation.
  • Running community. Whether you decide to do your virtual run alone on a treadmill and compare your times with other racers on apps like Strava, or out on your favorite course with a couple of running buddies, it’s an opportunity to get together with other runners.
  • Flex-time. Just like the virtual workplace, virtual races give you a heck of a lot more flexibility than your typical 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning 5K. You can run them any time you want— you have control over your own time. Plus, weather is not as much of a consideration. If your virtual half-marathon is scheduled for the weekend, and there is a driving rainstorm the day you planned to run, no problem. Simply run it the next day.

Let’s face it. We all want to line up on the starting line of our favorite races and compete again. But that’s just not going to happen for a while. So maybe it’s time to reconsider virtual races. Your body won’t really know the difference!

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