Thursday, February 4, 2016

What's the Deal with Virtual Runs?

As with any hobby, profession, or other activity, there are trends in running that come and go. Recently, one of these trends is the proliferation of "Virtual Races." These are races that runners (or now, even cyclists!) register for online. Signing up enlists you to do a certain distance- anything from a 5k to a Marathon, and it is completely self-reported on an honor system. Then, when the "race" is over, everyone is mailed a medal, and sometimes other goodies such as t-shirts.

The benefits of these races for race companies are obvious- significantly lower overhead thanks to no permits, road closures, aid stations, etc. Funds go straight to costs of shipping and medal production, staff, computer servers, and any other necessities.

This allows registration costs to be lower, making races much cheaper for runners- a very appealing thing! Running as a sport should be inexpensive. At its nature, all you should need is a healthy pair of feet and maybe some decent shoes, but because of rising costs of race production, races are not cheap, making the sport more and more inaccessible except to those with lots of disposable income.

I've been on the fence as to how I feel about the growing popularity of these events, but the more I consider the cost savings for athletes and the incredibly varied reasons we all race, the more I understand that while I may not typically choose to do them, I can certainly see the appeal they have for many others!

We all run for different reasons. I love traditional races because I thrive on the competition- seeing the other women in my age group and knowing that, toe-to-toe on the same day on the same course, I did better (or worse!) than they did. I enjoy the medals and shirts and after-parties, but they are secondary to me to the competition.

However, many people are not in it for competition, except against themselves. Virtual Races create a way for people to commemorate their personal accomplishments and victories, without all the trappings and pressures of a traditional race day. They work with busy schedules and the demands of day-to-day lives, and provide an affordable way to celebrate the first time you ran a certain distance, or the time you PRed on your favorite running trail. The goals are different, but the rewards are the same.

Then, there are even cooler aspects to some virtual race companies. Those that know me know my profession is in the nonprofit field, so I always look for companies that are giving back. I connected with Brad of Level Up Virtual Runs to talk about their mission in particular.

He said he and his brother Spencer began their company just a few months ago in December 2015 as a way to raise funds for schools in their area in desperate need.  They were struck by the struggle of some schools to fund their sports programs. As avid runners themselves, they knew the importance of athletics for development, and hoped to make a difference. They hope once they get off the ground, they will be able to donate 30% of their profits to those schools.

Now, many people get annoyed with "charity" events because they expect 100% to go to charity and then those charities to spend 100% on their mission. However, that's not how real life works. Nonprofits and for profit companies both have bills to pay, salaries to pay (and we that work at nonprofits DESERVE a living wage, thank you very much!), 30% is not chump change, so I applaud their hopes and wish them the best with fulfilling that mission!

In order to help spread the word, since I think the work they're doing is awesome, I agreed to review their next run. It's STAR WARS themed and runs February 15-29th. You can run any distance from a 5k-Marathon and you get this sweet, nerd-tastic medal!

 As far as virtual run medals go, that one is pretty dang cool, and I'm not even a Star Wars fan! (Shhhhhhhh, don't tell anyone, I literally have never seen any of the movies.)

I'll be doing a 10k distance for mine since I'll be recovering from the Austin Half and not yet ready to rev-up for Boulder training, which begins in March. Who wants to join me to help raise funds for kids in need and get a cool medal to reward yourself for your hard work?

Naturally, I have a discount code!

Registration website -

Follower/reader/friends/family code - Save15

I'll be doing a follow-up review once I receive my medal, so be sure to send me pictures if you run, and I'll include you on the blog post! Happy running! 

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