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Going Virtual

Racing (in person) may have been canceled, but running hasn't! Yes, some locations are stricter on the lock downs and stay at home directives then others. Getting out to trails and the mountains has been challenging for some people. But others are getting creative and doing their runs around the block or even smaller. How to stay motivated when there's such a limited range for adventure? After so many March and April races were canceled, with May and June looking ominous, the race directors have stepped up. They need to stay in business - which means putting on races. No races means no money and possibly even worse as runners demand refunds for events that were canceled. (Side note - if you want your favorite grass roots race series to survive, don't ask for a refund if the race was canceled on short notice and don't do a charge back! That's a sure way to bankrupt the events. Let the RDs figure things out that will both help you and the events.) The solution isn't ideal - we don't get to enjoy the personal community of running, but we still have events and goals to train for. And the race directors can still bring in some money - and may even attract new runners! The community is still there as well, especially if you can participate in the groups and the race directors leverage the power of social media to create a global community. 

Going virtual. I'll be honest, as an athlete, I discounted virtual races for years - pay money, get a shirt and medal and you don't even have to really run the event? You miss out on all the fun and adventure of traveling to the race, experiencing the location of the race. And you aren't really racing against anyone because you aren't on the course. However, as a Coach and seeing how devastated some of my athletes are at the cancellation of the events, I can see the benefit of the virtual races. They aren't the meaningless award machines that I initially thought. The virtual races that have started in the wake of the pandemic provides a purpose for getting out and moving. They are bringing athletes from around the country and the world together on social media, all sharing the same goal - staying healthy, staying fit and finding a challenge. That's really no different then in-person racing - except the challenge becomes more self directed

For some of the races, you sign up and get the finishers medal before you've done the distance you've selected. So the motivation to hit the road or trails - even if it's just around the block a few too many times - is there, hanging on the wall. You have to cover the distance to have earned the medal. There's also some freedom involved that you don't get in the in-person events. Some races provide a very narrow window for completing and submitting times. Others give you several months to run the distance, so you can build up or try a few times. Some race directors have taken the standard events and turned them into virtual - like Mad Moose did with their Take 5 in the Garden and High Drive Challenge races. Others have started completely new races and series to attract runners - like TROT did with the Summer Series. They are doing four completely new races - 100% virtual, with distances for every runner from 5k to 50k. Each race has a different medal and there's a special medal for finishing all four. HPRS has taken the community aspect to heart with two virtual series that were more about the weekly challenges and sharing your community and knowledge with others then just the races. And then there's the long distance challenges like running across various states ala the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. Each virtual event has a different focus - attracting different kinds of runners, just like in real life.

So racing isn't canceled - it's just shifted location from the distant trails and mountains to your backyard. If you are looking for races of any kind and have lost your spring and most of your summer season, I would recommend checking out the virtual options. Support your local race directors while challenging your self to something different. You might see your community in a new way or find a new trail in your city to explore. 

Comments

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