There are a lot of reasons to start running. But, as someone who never considered herself a natural runner, I also understand there may seem like a lot of reasons not to run. However, after years of running (and now racing) under my belt, I'm convinced there's never been a better time to embrace running — and, yes, racing, than now.
Hear me out. Virtual racing may not be what everyone thinks of when they hear someone mention signing up for a 5K, 10K, or even a half-marathon. But, this new form of have-it-your-way virtual racing may just be what newbie runners need to get their toes wet with racing.
You Control the Course
This is a biggie! There have been races in the past where I simply just didn't enjoy the course, or left the race feeling like, "I wish we had taken this street instead of that." But with virtual racing, you're the race director. You can pick exactly the route you want. Maybe you have a particularly scenic route that always makes you smile. Or, perhaps you're really not feeling hills and want to keep to a flatter route. The course choice is yours! For beginners, having this control over where you go allows you to set yourself up for the conditions and settings that make you feel the strongest when running.
You Can Practice Race Day — as Many Times as You Want
Any beginners' race day guide will tell you to practice your race day during training. This means everything from logging miles in your go-to leggings like the UA Fly Fast 2.0 HeatGear® Crop ($55), snacking on the exact fuel you're going to use on the day of, and, yep, running the course prior to the race. This isn't always possible for races. But with a virtual race where you're the head runner in charge, you can map out your preferred race route prior to the big day so you're familiar with all the spots for hydration and restrooms, and, most importantly, familiarize yourself with areas that could be a little challenging for you. For those areas, you can request your friends and family stake them out and act as your en route cheer squad. Plus, by practicing your route ahead of time, you can map out the exact distance and get a good idea of how long it may take you to complete it.
You Still Get the Perks
Yep, you're still a finisher! Many virtual races still supply runners with a finisher medal or T-shirt. Beyond the swag, a virtual race is often a little cheaper to register for, which, if you're on the fence about racing, can be a fantastic way to give it a go in a cost-effective way. What's more, virtual races often admit a lot more runners than a normal in-person race would, meaning you could be running with racers all over the country or world. Most of the time these runners are able to connect or participate in virtual activities, runners groups, or social media communities. It's a great way to feel less alone during a run and warm beginners up to the running community.
You Can Run Stress-Free
A lot of hesitation I hear from friends who aren't sure if racing is for them stems from stress: stress over feeling fast enough, stress from imposter syndrome, stress from feeling like they'll be the last ones to finish (News flash: Someone who finishes last gets the same finisher medal as someone who finishes first.) A virtual race eliminates many of these stressors. Beginners can run at their preferred pace, take breaks when it's right for them, and get a feel for what running a timed race is like — all without the usual pressures.
By creating a positive virtual running experience, newbie runners can ease into the world of racing and prime themselves for the main event or even push themselves to run a distance maybe they didn't know they had in them. Yep, if this isn't the best way to fall in love with running, I don't know what is.