Your Ultimate Guide to Virtual Races in 2021

What is a Virtual race?

A virtual race is a race which can be run anywhere that you want! 

A trail, track, road, your neighborhood, the treadmill, in another state, another country, you name it and you go for it! 

This is one of the biggest draws of virtual racing! 

Most virtual races follow a system that looks something like this:

  • Enroll in the virtual race of your choice online.
  • Pick your route - start and finish line.
  • Upload a finishing time into the race’s system upon completion of the race.
  • You will then be sent a congratulatory medal to mark your achievement!


Some races also allow/require you to show your stats within an app such as Strava or Garmin, or even to post photos of your treadmill numbers if you are running on a treadmill. Most just rely on runners to use the honor system. 

a virtual running challenge is very much the same as a virtual race

A virtual running challenge is usually a challenge to push yourself for a certain period of time or to do a certain things for a set period of time.

A popular running challenge is one where you aim to run x amount of miles in a specific period of time, for example, running 100 miles during the span of 1 month.  

What are the benefits of virtual races?

What are the benefits of virtual races?

  • You can run it anywhere in the world that you want, even from the comfort of your own home or backyard! 
  • The flexibility that each runner has is great for making it work with your schedule and style!
  • You get to plan your own course. Which you like hills or not?
  • You get to decide what’s at each of your aid stations and when they will occur during your race.
  • You want pizza delivered to you at the half way point? At the end of the race? Sure thing! 
  • You can plan out your finish line to be in a special, personal, unique, or convenient spot. 
  • There are options, usually, to choose your race medal and t-shirt or to opt out of things you don’t want/need.
  • You can run at your own pace with no race cutoff times.
  • You don’t need to wake up uber early in the morning in order to make it to the starting line.
  • No feeling frenzied about making it to the starting line on time. 
  • No wait line to use the bathrooms!
  • Easier for friends and family to find and cheer for you along the way.
  • They are generally a much cheaper alternative to running a traditional style race.
  • Some provide online running groups where you can check in with each other in order to provide encouragement and accountability. 

What are the cons of a virtual race?

  • More legwork for you in terms of planning how to get fluids, aid, a bathroom strategy, measuring the distance of your route, etc.
  • You won't have any pacers helping you stay on target with your goal race pace
  • The adrenalin building race atmosphere of a crowd won't be present (some runners though might prefer and enjoy this!)
  • You may or may not miss getting the chance to run through the middle of the streets of your favorite city. 

Who are virtual races for? What type of runner?

Who would have known that in 2020 virtual races would literally be for everyone!

  •  If your race got cancelled
  • You are on a tight schedule (perhaps with work or family life), virtual racing provides more flexibility
  • You don’t want to spend a lot of money on race registration, hotels, transportation
  • You like the solitude of running and big crowds give you anxiety or don't align with what you want from running
  • You want to start at a certain time or you want the freedom to decide the day of  your race what time to begin
  • You want to run a specific route when claiming your race finish
  • It’s 2020. 

These are all reasons that would make you a great candidate for a virtual race!

10 ways to make the most out of your virtual race:

  1. Find a partner to either run the race with you or see if friends or family with sign up to run certain miles with you.
  2. Tell your family and friends.
  3. Have a physical calendar or visual to check off.
  4. Ask yourself what you need the most out ofa virtual race or challenge. (a medal, shirt, accountability in the form of a race date, motivation...what speaks to you?)
  5. Set up an emergency plan just in case. Have contacts that you can reach out to, wear I.D., make sure others know your route. For more tips, read this page on how to be safe as a runner
  6. Be sure to follow the local health guidelines in your community or to research what they are if you will be running in a different area. Also check for trail, park and (therefore) bathroom and drinking fountain closures that you might normally use.
  7. Run for a reason. Whether it’s a specific cause - raising money for a charity, raising awareness for a certain issue, running in gratitude of something that has happened in your life, running to celebrate a milestone (literally ;). Having a special reason will bring you so much motivation and purpose to your race! 
  8. Really make the race your own and have fun with it! Wear a costume, have a theme, place things along the course that make you happy, have somebody stash your favorite treats along the way at each mile marker. 
  9. Create a special Race Day Playlist whether it’s comprised of music, podcasts, an inspiring book or a mix!
  10. Celebrate afterwards! You accomplished what you set out to achieve! Whether it’s margaritas or devouring a chocolate cake, do something to acknowledge all the hard work that you have done! 

Virtual race training tips

1. Design the route that you want!

Use a platform such as Map My Run to help you plan out your route, mileage, hills, etc. If you want the support of your family and friends out on your course, then an out and back route or running a loop (2 or 3 times) makes it easier for them to show up and cheer you on. 

2. Run/train on the route that you will be racing on.

3. Come up with an easy to implement strategy.

4. Focus on simplicity.

It really only needs to be as complicated as you want it to be.

5. Ask for help where you need it.

People love helping other people achieve their goals! Neighbors and friends might make perfect pit stops for the bathroom and refuel!

6. Plan your nutrition out as you would any race.

Eat a pre-race meal, consider carbo-loading if you are running a marathon, refuel throughout the race as needed, intaking both water and energy drinks. 

If you are training for a marathon, go through the EAT LIKE A MARATHONER Nutrition Course about 2 weeks before your race day so that you can be sure you are ready and feel great while you are out there! 

Virtual Race day tips

  1. Plant your water and energy drink bottles ahead of time or have a system. Keep your neighbors and friends in mind!
  2. Keep your expectations low. It’s okay if you forget something or it doesn’t go as planned. You are putting your best effort forward and truly that is what counts!
  3. Think through your post race meal. Prep it ahead of time or have it delivered to you upon finishing. :)

Ways that family and friends can support a runner in a virtual race

  • Send text messages when they are out on the course
  • Do a FaceTime video call or simply send a video message to them
  • Call and chat for a bit to check-in
  • Write chalk messages on the ground for them along their route
  • Send a shout out on social media
  • Show up on the course with a sign and a snack
  • Ask them how you can best give them support along the way
  • Send a congratulatory message when they finish and ask them how it went!

My #1 running Gear recommendation for a virtual run

A FlipBelt! It is my all time favorite piece of running gear and it is perfect for a virtual race!

It can hold all the little things that you might want to carry:

  • energy packets
  • keys
  • cash
  • your phone,etc.

If you don’t have one already, I highly recommend and use mine on every single run! You really forget that you are wearing it and it doesn't let anything bounce around! 

Get a FlipBelt for yourself!

Training plans to get you to the virtual race finish line:

10K training plans: Beginner and intermediate plans

Half Marathon Training Plans:

Marathon Training Plans:

If you have you are eager to burn time off of your finish, there are 7 Marathon Time Goal Training Plans to choose from that incorporate your paces, quality workouts, and complete training plan package for only $15.

Custom Marathon Training Plans - I also do offer limited custom half marathon training plans to runners

Some  Virtual races + challenges you can sign up for!

So what do you think? Are you on the virtual running race bandwagon?

There are so many great benefits to them! 

I'd Love to stay in touch!
Join 23,000+ Other runners and receive my weekly training newsletter!

I'll send you my  free 24 Hour Timeline Checklist of Things You Should Do After a Long Run  when you sign up! 


As featured on:


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.