Tuesday, May 5, 2020

5 Things Runners Should Consider Before Jumping into a Virtual Running Challenge

With all the new intriguing virtual races popping up, are you feeling the FOMO?

I am.

In April, I did a bunch of virtual running challenges. They were nothing extraordinary, just challenges that I could fit into my normal training. You know, 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons. I don't need any medals for these so with the exception of the Stay Home Half Marathon, I chose virtual challenges without medals. At the end of the month, I declared that I was done with virtual races.

Of course, after I said that, some really interesting virtual challenges began popping up. The Yeti 24 hour challenge, which started in April and ends on May 15, requires runners to complete 5 miles every 4 hours in a 24 hour period. The race shirt is very cool--actually all of my virtual races have had very cool shirts--and several of my friends have completed this challenge.

I was so tempted to sign up for it. I'm certain that could do it, but just because I could does it mean I should? Would it be worth it to risk injury or even worse, awaken the sleeping RA giant, just to run a virtual race? For nothing more than bragging rights?



Runners all over the world are competing in virtual challenges. With fall races now being canceled, runners are looking to up the ante. The Uncanceled Project, which I have been participating in, has started the Uncanceled Project 2, another 6 weeks of themed virtual races. Runners can do one distance per week, but with 7 distances available, you could theoretically do one every day.

Some people have done just that and have shared their very full calendars in the FB group. Making the rest of us slackers feel inadequate.

There were runners competing in an ultra marathon in their backyards. Kind of a last man standing type of race, participants were required to run a 4.167 mile lap every 60 minutes, running until everyone else dropped out. Michael Wardian, who won the race, technically didn't run it in his backyard, lapping around his neighborhood. He ran for a total of 262 miles. The second place competitor ran it on a treadmill. My backyard is 125' x75'. I'd probably get dizzy and throw up after a couple of laps.

Right now, the hot race, which started May 1, is the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. The race director is the famous Lazarus Lake of the Barkley Marathons. (By the way, Laz also staged that backyard ultra.) The GVRAT is a 1000km race that must be completed by August 31. If you're an overachiever, you do the out and back, which is 2000km.

Don't think that I haven't considered it. That is 621 miles, my friends. 155 miles per month. 5 miles per day. Sounds doable, right? But when you add it up, that's more monthly miles than I've ever run, even during marathon training. With a goal race planned for the fall, I don't know that participating in this event would be in my best interest right now. Or ever.

It's hard to be sitting on the sidelines when everyone else is jumping into these cool events. These events are so unique and challenging that it's so temping. Here are some things you might want to think about before you take the leap:

What are your goals?
If you're looking for motivation, these challenges provide it. Not only should you feel the internal drive to complete the race, there are so many other runners sharing their accomplishments on social media that it makes the pressure feel real. Each event has its own hashtag and using them makes it easy to find your people.


What is your level of commitment?
None of these virtual races are easy. But they're also not a 'real' race. For some of us, that doesn't matter. When we commit to something, we follow through. But others might not feel the pressure that a live race brings and may just drop out. Who cares, right? It's really up to you! If you're not sure you can commit to a long-term project, you might be better off seeking out virtual races that are a one time event.


What is your current level of fitness?
Thinking about it, 5 miles per day seems like nothing. Until you add it up. For 4 months. That is a lot of mileage. If you aren't running anywhere close to 150 miles per month, it could be a pretty significant jump and a setup for injury.


Have you ever run a long distance race?
In my Uncanceled Project FB group, there have been quite a few participants who are new runners. Most of them are doing the 5k distance but there have been a number of newbies asking about the marathon distance and how to train for it. If you aren't a seasoned runnner, but you want to build up to a longer distance, I recommend starting out slow and using a training plan to increase your distance gradually.


How will you feel if you have to DNF?
Most of these virtual races benefit charity. The GVRAT1000 has raised over $100,000 for Tennessee food banks and animal shelters. That's pretty amazing. But I have to ask...if you DNF, will you still wear the shirt?


Seriously, it would be so easy to sign up for all.the.virtual.races right now. I'd love to be a part of GVRAT1000. For me personally, I know that I would really be asking a lot of my body to run 150 miles per month for 4 months. I'm just not that runner. But I may not be done with virtual races. As more fall races are canceled, I think that there will be a lot more creative virtual running challenges to come. It's going to get interesting. Stay tuned!


Are you thinking about some virtual ultradistance races? Here are some things to consider /via @oldrunningmom #socialdistancing #virtualracing #running #runchat

Are you participating in any virtual running challenges? Have you signed up for GVRAT? Do you feel tempted by peer pressure to jump in? What kind of virtual race would you like to see?

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJenRachelSandra, and Lisa.

 







61 comments :

  1. There are so many popping up but I agree with all your points. I've signed up for two manageable and local virtual races. One this weekend 5k, and another in July, 10k.

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    1. I love your word "manageable"! That is exactly what we should strive for.

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  2. Great post and very timely! I do the VRs for fun - I need the excitement of a real live race to go all out. So for now, I'm just sticking to the Un-Cancelled Project to keep me accountable and motivated and then see what else comes up.
    You are right, I think we will see many more creative VRs!

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    1. I'm with you--I've signed up for 6 more weeks of the Uncanceled Project. And I'll see what else comes up!

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  3. I tend to go my own way, so I rarely get sucked into peer pressure. I can enjoy others’ tales vicariously. :)

    I’m not even super enthusiastic about virtual races but I did sign up for our local womens’ race just to support it.

    I’m glad that are so many available for those who need them, though!

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    1. I think as RDs become more creative, the VRs will become more motivating!

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  4. Oops, forgot I was using a different account when I commented above!

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  5. I do have a few friends signed up for the Tennessee one but as someone who’s never done a run streak and rarely ever logged 100 miles in a month, it certainly is not for me. I think I will get sucked in to the virtual version of the Lawyers Have Heart 10K, but that’s because I want to support the cause more than the run.

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    1. There's nothing wrong with supporting a cause that is near and dear to your heart!

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  6. We definitely have a bit of challenge fatigue going on right now. I did a 5k-10k-half virtual series this spring and I loved it b/c it was a 4 week long distraction and oh hey I PR'd all of the races, so that was sweet. What I think is that if you're in a place to run 600 miles in 4 months why not sign up and do something good, but for me personally, that's not where my fitness is right now. Far better to "stay in my lane" and not get injured and support these causes financially.

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  7. Nope no challenges for me.But they are good for many runners and I'm glad that they exist.

    I think virtual races are great for many reasons. You can choose to do them in any way that meets your individual needs.

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  8. I'm definitely glad that there are so many virtual challenges out there for people but I'm not participating in any. Once I finished my April races, my initial plan had been to spend the Summer just running for fun anyway. So I virtually did the races I was initially signed up for in real life and now I'm just taking the time to enjoy the Spring and Summer :)

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    1. I did that over the winter--and now that almost all of my races are canceled, I'm looking for an outlet!

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  9. These are really great points. I think that it's certainly tempting to want to sign up for a bunch of virtual races or challenges, but as you mentioned, just because we can doesn't mean we should. I have signed up for a few virtual races but not think I would sign up for a challenge. I'm much better with a 5K or 10K virtual race every week or so.

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    1. I'm waiting for a challenge that fits my level of fitness!

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  10. Wise decision. Doing something fun isn't fun if you end up injured or worse, bringing on RA symptoms. Keep it real for your body; it'll thank you for that.

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    1. I have to keep the big picture in mind! My heart wants to run all the races...

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  11. I haven't jumped onto any of the virtual challenges, but pretty much all of my races have gone virtual - 5 of 7 so far, and I'm just waiting for the last 2 to pull the trigger. The YETI challenge sounds pretty cool (as does the Tennessee race, but the distances are crazy). I'm sure there will be more like these popping up as social distancing guidelines persist.

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  12. Bill and I were just talking about how fun the Yeti 24-Hour Challenge would be to do and wish they'd had things like that back when we were running marathons. Heck, if I weren't injured right now I might consider it. There are so many creative racing options now! Back when I ran the JFK 50-Miler, 50K's weren't even a thing, and at the time ultras were 50-milers and longer.

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  13. I briefly considered hopping into that Run Across Tennessee challenge - all the way until I did the math. That's like 150 miles each month! Even when I was training for my first 50k, I never hit that much mileage. And, in the months I hit well over 100, it about broke me. LOL. So yeah, I had to be smart because I know that I'm not in the right shape to do it and....I'm not sure I would enjoy doing it knowing I would never finish. It's almost like a built in DNF and who wants one of those?

    I liked the variety in the East Coast vs West Coast challenge. You could choose a 10k, a half-marathon, or a 50k. The 10k was a no-brainer because I knew that would fit with my training and I also made a donation to Feeding America. So, win win!

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  14. I have been considering the Tennessee race, even though it's already begun. I think I read that walking and running mileage both counts, so that would be my saving grace...no way I'd run all of those miles. It benefits such a great cause ;-)

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    1. It's already May 5, so if you're going to do it, you better decide soon!

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  15. Not quite a challenge, but I'm running the McKirdy Mile series which is 4 one mile virtual races spread out over 8 weeks. Very doable with my current laid back mileage and training.

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    1. That's big time challenge and one where you can really push yourself. To me, most of these longer VRs feel like another run.

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    2. Yes, it's a pretty intense distance. Basically flooring it the entire time!

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  16. So many races so little time! I really liked the uncanceled races bc they were so flexible. While many people are running more miles now,I would say I am running less miles. Just not motivated to do long runs w/o my squad. I like the 5k and 8k and 10K distances. I saw a few others that I knew were too aggressive for me at the moment. I also am more apt to do more of the challenges that donate to a charitable cause.

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    1. It seems like most of the VRs are linked to a charity, which is definitely a draw for most of us!

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  17. You present some very valid questions, most of which I have already ignored, as not only did I sign up for the GVRAT1000, I started a day late, so am already approx. 5 miles behind. Do keep in mind that races like this are more about "keep moving forward", so I foresee many miles of walking as well as running. Sanity has a very precarious place in our sport.

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    1. Looking forward to seeing you crush the GVRAT! If I wasn't training for Ice Age, I would definitely consider it. But I like to keep my miles below 100 per month in order to avoid injury.

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  18. I've been feeling like Im ready to focus on a new challenge but I haven't come across anything I want to do. I dont want something that is too long term or requires too much mileage. I need to look around to see what else is out there!

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    1. It's like you know me or something...lol. I feel the same way!

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  19. So at first I was like HECK NO to GVRAT because it's insane. But then I saw someone's post on IG and he was like, this is what it feels like to sign up for a race and know I'll DNF... and I was like, huh. Yeah. I'm gonna do it. So now here I am. :)

    My goal race is end of August and I have a feeling it will be canceled. But in the meantime, I'm using GVRAT as a motivator to keep myself training for the goal race.

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    1. If I wasn't training for Ice Age, I'd totally do GVRAT, just because. But that monthly mileage is definitely a deterrent---I've never run that much in a month. Ever. So I guess, even though I have FOMO, that I'm glad I have an excuse. lol

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  20. It wasn't a virtual race but I did the 4x4x48 Challenge last weekend - 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. If I hadn't just done that, I might be interested int the Yeti race. It sounds like fun. Of course, the challenge I did was free - not part of a group other than the group of friends I did it with "virtually". My husband's response when I first asked him if he wanted to do it with me was just like you mentioned - "No shirt, no times posted, no recognition?" I will be interested to see what challenge(s?) you select.

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    1. LOL to what your hubs said!! I'm just going to sit back and see what pops up. Could get interesting, right?

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  21. I have not jumped into many virtual challenges. I have been doing time trials on my own once per month, but I have no desire to run a marathon on my own or hit a certain mileage in a certain time frame. It's nothing to do with the races, just my own personal motivation. I do appreciate how race directors are finding creative solutions, especially since I worry about how the pandemic will affect races next year (ie if some have to shut down due to no profit in 2020).

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    1. I agree with you--I like all the interesting challenges. If races are canceled for the fall, I'll be really curious to see what's next for us.

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  22. I haven't felt much urgency to run a virtual race. I'm not sure why, maybe because I don't really race that much or I've never really cared about bling. A mileage challenge would be more up my alley but, since I've run 150 only one month in the last 10 years or so (when I was peaking my last marathon training) I don't think I'm up for that. I love that these things are out there for the runners who love them though!

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    1. I like the uniqueness of some of the new challenges! The RDs are going to to have to up the ante to get runners to buy in as cancelations keep happening.

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  23. i have not yet signed up for any Virtual Challenges. My motivation is a bit lacking. Great tips though especially for newbies wanting to go the longer distances.

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  24. I've been tempted by all the races that you mentioned but have yet to do any Virtual Races. I'm also looking at the East vs West coast race and running a 24 hour marathon (1 mile every hour except for the first hour where you run 3.2). But my friend and his wife who did the 24 hour marathon both came out of it with bum hips. It sounds easy but I'm not sure I want to risk injury. They haven't been able to run since then and now is not the time that I don't want to be running!

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  25. I finally signed up for a couple of virtual 5K's - that's as much as I'm willing to commit to right now! It's great that there are so many options for folks, but yes, newer runners need to be careful not to bite off more than they can chew.

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    1. It's hard to say no when everyone else is doing it, right?

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  26. I saw that race across Tennessee and thought about it for a hot minute, but then took a pass. It's just too much too soon for me, and while I probably COULD do it, it's just putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on me that could end up in a problem. I'm at peace with that. I sign up here and there for little things, just to keep me focused and excited about running, but that's all I've been doing.

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  27. Great points Wendy. With so many cancellations I'm learning to embrace the idea of doing more virtuals. I decided to jump into the 2nd round of the Uncanceled Project just to give my running a little focus. There are a couple of fall races that I'm really looking forward to but I don't think will happen. Hopefully there will be some fun challenges to consider then.

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    1. Those weekly 10ks I've been doing for the Uncanceled Project have been really good for me. They get me out the trails and on the days when I want to cut it short, I don't because, commitment.

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  28. Great points! I am not a huge fan of virtual races but I know many people like them. I know they're motivating, especially at a time like this. I wanted to keep up with the Un-canceled project and didn't. However, I did sign up again in the hopes to complete them. Well, you know I was tempted about the Run Across Tennessee but the high mileage does scare me. I think if I were already running 30-40 miles a week then it would have been a much easier decision for me. Another interesting one is the Yeti Ultra 24 Hour Challenge. The only thing that was stopping me was running outside in the middle of the night. If only I had a treadmill. :-) Thanks for linking up with us!

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    1. I like the virtual races because of the commitment--if I sign up, I'm going to do it!

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  29. I have signed up for a few. Both my husband I did the Bigfoot Social Distancing Trifecta. 5k, 10k and half . Our local marathon association had one and donated all proceeds to our local hospital employees group for PPE. You could pick out any of the past shirts or medals as a gift so that was cool. And....I did sign up for GVRAT. My mileage has already been close to the 150 range for a couple months and I'm training for the Bigfoot 40 in August (fingers crossed). I figured it would be good training.

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    1. I'm jealous! Hoping that my legs will hold up for a 50k. I sure couldn't do that high mileage, not anymore. FOMO!

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  30. You can also get your miles for the GVRAT by walking. The mileage (walk or run) just has to be intentional.

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