3 Reasons to Sign Up for a Virtual Race

Virtual races exploded after COVID-19 shut most in-person races down in the spring. While some areas have returned to in-person racing, most are still offering virtual options as well. For many, the appeal of virtual racing is starting to wear thin as they long to be back to the adrenaline filled starting line. 

I certainly love in-person racing, the catching up pre-race, the meeting strangers on the trail and swapping life stories over the tough miles, the sweaty post-race hugs and selfies, and just, well, my “people.” Health concerns do have me extra cautious, but it’s more than that.

Grass path across a meadow
Missing the Meadows of Death this year. Backyard Classic runners, you know what I’m talking about.

Right now, when things change from day to day (I never though virtual kindergarten would be in my life!), I’d rather have the certainty of a virtual race. After all, it can’t get cancelled, right? This post will cover 3 reasons I’m still turning to virtual races.

1.    Flexibility

Like many of us, my schedule from day to day can vary greatly, and planning more than a few days out can be tricky. Weekends end up being “catch up on all of the things I didn’t get done during the week.” The weather this time of year here in Kentucky doesn’t help either. 

Who knows when a severe storm will pop up or the humidity is so high it smacks you around as soon as you get out the door? I’ll run in rain, sure, but I’m nope-ing out of anything resembling thunder and lightning. And if I need some extra sleep that day, I’m fine getting a later start, which I couldn’t do at an in-person race.

With usually a week’s time span or often longer to get a virtual race done, I can tailor it to my schedule. If it’s storming all day, I can plan it a day ahead or later. If I know a heat wave is coming or about to break, I can wait. If I have a lot of deadlines, I can hold off on that long virtual race to mid-week. I need that flexibility right now. And sleep, always sleep.   

2.    Accessibility

Let’s face it, I have a small child, work that requires me to be online often, and it’s just hard to get away for very long. Virtual races let me participate in races I normally couldn’t. 

The first virtual race I signed up for was Aravaipa Running’s Aravaipa Strong race. Their Javelina Jundred is on my bucket list, and I jumped at the chance to participate in Jamil Coury’s event. Lazarus Lake’s Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000K has been wildly popular as so many want to be a part of any of Laz’s events, without the torture and bleakness of the Barkley Marathons, which only a few can aspire to in the first place.

In fact, I just signed up for the LBL Bridge to Bridge Trail Run at Land Between the Lakes. I couldn’t have made it down there during the school semester, and I get to support the state parks and Calloway County High School’s Track and Field Team. 

3.    Charity

One of the great things about the racing community, whether roads or trails, is the amount they raise for charities with their races. I’ve done races, like the Huber’s Barnyard Dash 10K, simply because their proceeds all go to a charity I believe in, the Crusade for Children.

Crossing finish line with child
I also got to cross the finish line with my daughter, so that’s definitely a favorite race.

Virtual races bring my attention to even more charities, and I can stay motivated and feel good about supporting a worthy cause. In fact, I also just signed up for Race to the Case, benefiting Girls on the Run International. Just do your research and make sure the race company/director is reputable and the charity will see the majority, if not all of, the proceeds.

You can find virtual races through a Google search or even the typical sites like Runsignup and Ultrasignup. Some are intentionally virtual, and sometimes you can get on in a race that has been turned into a virtual event, like the LBL Bridge to Bridge Trail Run. The options abound! All you need is a run tracking app on your phone or a GPS watch. Read Consumers Advocate’s guide on fitness trackers and watches to help you select one.

Finish line hugs
These moments I really miss though.

There are lots of people itching to get back to in-person racing. Me, I’ll stick to virtual races awhile longer. They suit my needs for the moment, but you better bet I’m dreaming of a late winter/spring 50K in 2021 and tackle hugging my running and race buddies at my next “real” start line.

Have you done a virtual race yet? Why or why not? What do you get out of them? Let me know in the comments below!

Published by Sarah White-Thielmeier

Writer and college writing teacher who runs, a lot, offering writing services via blogging, copywriting, and content strategy.

One thought on “3 Reasons to Sign Up for a Virtual Race

  1. My first virtual was 1/2 Hotter Than July. It was hard. I definitely feed off of other runners: talking and encouraging each other. My 2nd was 10K Race to the Case. I loved the posts and community at a time we needed it.


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