The Benefits of a Virtual Event

By Amy Primorac.  Amy is a teacher by day and the race director for the Sprint for Monroe in her off hours.

As we inch into summer and past the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re all itching to get back to our usual activities.  Getting our haircut, meeting up with friends, enjoying a meal at a restaurant are all possible now.  Even gyms are starting to open up, and the fitness community is ready to roll.

The one thing that hasn’t returned, nor will it any time soon, are large scale running events.  In the early days of COVID, many races rescheduled until the fall thinking that we would be able to hold our events.  But one by one, the Sprint for Monroe included, most agreed that the risks to health of participants and volunteers were just too great.  Many cancelled events outright, but some, like the Sprint for Monroe, have decided to hold a virtual race.

Many race enthusiasts look down on virtual races.  In the pre COVID world, a virtual race seemed silly; why would you go out and “race” on your own and pay to do it?  But now, virtual races are showing that they have a real place in the world of running.

Race Completed

My post race selfie after completing my duathlon on 6/20/20.

I recently completed the Shamrock Duathlon virtually.  This race was a 5K run/20K bike/5K run.  I discovered that there are definitely some perks to doing a virtual event that I never really thought of.

  • Choosing your time and place:  The original course for this event is in hilly Glastonbury, a solid hour drive away. The race would normally start at 7:30am.  But when race weekend turned out to be hot and humid, we were able to choose any course we’d like, at any time.  So we chose courses in Fairfield down near the beach, which boasted beautiful scenery and flat courses.  We moved up our start time to 7am because of the heat, which turned out to be an absolute godsend with the weather.
  • Water stops, bathroom breaks and shoe tying not a problem:  In a traditional 5K I tend to eschew a water stop because it slows me down and the sacrifice of the 10 or so seconds isn’t worth it to me for time.  But on a virtual event, you can take your water with you and pause your Garmin or Strava or Apple Watch and not sacrifice the time.  This is especially great if your event turns out to be done on a hot humid day, like ours was.  Bathroom breaks aren’t really an issue for 5Ks but on our Duathlon after about 1.5 hours I was ready to find a place to go.  Having done my research on my route ahead of time, we were able to stop for a pit stop at one of the beaches, again without sacrificing time due to the virtual nature of the event.
  • The Do Over:  This is not something I did on my Duathlon, but you may not realize that on a virtual event you can repeat the event as many times as you want during the race window and update your time accordingly.  That means that if you run the 5K on Sunday morning and are disappointed with your time, you can try to beat yourself on Thursday and update the time.  As long as you repeat your run within the race window, it’s allowed.
  • Instant Results:  Ever do a race and wait for hours furiously checking for official results?  I know I have.  The great thing about virtuals is as soon as people input their results into the race portal, the results are live.  You can immediately see where you’re falling in the pack.  So if you really wanted to beat out Joe Smith but he’s five seconds faster than you…well, go back out and try again!
  • Out Of Town/State/Country is A-OK:   My duathlon was originally supposed to be in Glastonbury, again, an hour away.   But it could have been five states away and I still could have done it.  All I needed was the ability to track the event using a Garmin or a phone app.  Ever wanted to do an event with an out of state friend or relative?  This is a great way to do it.  You can physically be together and still do the event, or you can each do the event in your respective home towns and share in the fun at a distance.
  • Make A Party:  For my duathlon, a few of my friends and I did the event together at the same time.  This gave us a bit of the camaraderie you would normally have at an in person race, while maintaining social distance protocols.  We even recreated the post race party by packing picnic items and enjoying the accomplishment after completing the event.  Because you’ll be completing your event outdoors, you can safely have several people together who have done the race together.  Decide who is bringing what, pack some soccer chairs and find a shady spot to enjoy the accomplishment together.
  • It’s For a Good Cause:  My virtual duathlon supported Foodshare, a food bank that serves Hartford and Tolland counties.  It also supports the Hartford Marathon Foundation, a non profit that supports runners in Connecticut through challenges and events.  I felt good about supporting both with my race entry.

A virtual event will never be the same as an in person race.  But until we are able to all come together again safely, a virtual event can be a great option for staying competitive and giving yourself a goal to strive for.

Ready to start our virtual duathlon with our virtual race bibs.

Ready to start our virtual duathlon with our virtual race bibs.

The virtual Sprint for Monroe is scheduled for August 23-30, 2020.  Sign up today!