Hello, my name is Melissa and I’m addicted to Virtual Races. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?! Then again, I’m not sure I want to recover from my latest addiction.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I enjoy doing 5k walks from time to time. You get a cool t-shirt and, if you’re lucky, some cool race bling when you cross the finish line. For me, the major downsides for the vast majority of these events is, first and foremost, having to get up WAAAAAY too early in the morning, and secondly, the long lines at the porta-potty stations. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, the whole porta-potty situation is another major downside all by itself, but I want go into details on that one. Eww.
All of the races I did for quite some time were locally organized events with the odd traveling-required event here and there. Most of them included some type of race bling for the finishers, but not all. As a result, I’ve amassed a fairly nice collection of race bling over the past seven years that I have hanging on the wall in my office at work.
A couple of years ago, the races I did suddenly changed quite dramatically when I discovered the wonderful world of Virtual Races! The first few virtual races that I did were part of the Run the ‘Hood race series put on by the beautiful ladies over at The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans where I used to be a Contributing Writer. I’ve done all four virtual races they’ve organized thus far and plan to continue doing them. Next up came last year’s birthday virtual Fun Run organized by Dani, a Weight Watchers leader from Boston. I finally made the big leap earlier this summer and did the Dr. Who 50th Anniversary Half Marathon virtual race. That was my first venture into a race organized by someone I didn’t know and it worked out just fine. I absolutely LOVE the finisher’s medal! It’s actually a nicer quality medal than some of the ones I’ve received at “real” races in the past.
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a Virtual Runs group on Facebook that has nearly 4,000 members. Prior to discovering that group, I had NO idea there were so many awesome virtual races out there! The beauty of the virtual races is that it solves the downside issues from real races for me because I can do them on my own schedule which means not having to get out of bed at stupid o’clock. Since I’m a slow walker following my knee surgery last year, I don’t have to worry about course limits. It also means I can use my own bathroom and don’t have to deal with a gross porta-potty. The other major advantage of virtual races is they’re generally quite a bit cheaper than real races as far as registration fees go.
There are a couple of potential downsides to virtual races, too. Most of them don’t include a t-shirt, but since I never really wear the t-shirts I’ve gotten at real races, that didn’t really bother me. A second downside is that you’re doing the event all by yourself, so you miss out on all of the adrenaline, excitement, and professional photography that go with a real race. I have to admit that I do miss that part. Well, other than the professional photography part. I don’t think I’ve ever really had a good race day photo taken of me out on the course.
I really think the main downside of virtual races for most people is the whole trust factor that you’ll end up with your medal after registering for the race and that the funds they say will be donated to charity actually end up being donated. I get it. I was a bit concerned about that as well when I registered for the Dr. Who race since it was the first one I did where I didn’t “know” the organizer. Just like with local races, I think one has to be careful when selecting virtual races. Try to go with an organizer who has done virtual races in the past that has a proven history of following through with what they say they’ll do. This is pretty easy with the Facebook group because you can see people posting photos of their medals when they receive them, photos of the charity donation receipt posted by the organizer, etc.
Just remember that local races are no guarantee everything will come off perfectly either. I was registered for a race back in June that was canceled just a couple of days prior to the event and had all kinds of issues with finally getting a refund, including the organizer’s refund check to me bouncing. Thankfully it’s all be resolved now, but it’s just a lesson learned for me that local races can be just as risky sometimes as a virtual race.
I will leave you with one final thought about virtual races that I’ve discovered: they have really cool medals! I don’t know if it’s due to the fact the organizers don’t have all the other overhead expenses of a “real” race, but I just think the medals are far more creative for the virtual races. To prove my point, here are the medals for races I’ve registered to do between now and the end of the year.
Have you ever done a virtual race? Would you consider it? If not, why? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Until next time …