The Growing Trend of Virtual Races

By Laura Cummings

About a year ago, I discovered virtual running races. I found a website which offered races, in which you sign up and pick a race, run it in your own time and upload evidence that you have run it (i.e. via the Strava running app) and you receive a medal, which you have paid for on signing up. The point is to be able to run in your own time, with no pressure of an organised, large scale event, and also the medals you can choose from represent different charities – so part of your payment goes towards a certain charity. I love this idea and I think it is something which is really taking off. The website I joined is called MedalMad and it has grown significantly in this time; their list of races to choose from is ever expanding. There are now a large number of similar sites offering virtual challenges.

So in this post, I want to look at the pros and cons of virtual races and whether this will continue to be a popular way of racing.


  • A really good part about virtual races is they are inclusive of all – you can run, cycle or walk the distances or mix it up. They also start from 1 mile challenges up to marathon distances. So it is easy to find a race to suit you. Not only do they start small, but because it is not an organised event, no one has to feel self-conscious or worry about competing. It is purely about distance and personal achievement, not speed!
  • This means there is a lot less pressure. You do not have to run on a specific day, normally having 2-3 weeks to complete the challenges. I have only run the Remembrance Day challenges which I try to do on the 11th November, but I am not restricted to this day.
  • Doing something for charity – this is really great, you can pick an event which supports a charity you would love to help, and means that more people can contribute whereas they might not be able to partake in a long distance sports event for their chosen charity.


  • Is this way of racing anti-social? Although you could run with friends, it is encouraging more solo racing. You miss out on the buzz of race day or being in a big crowd. Although this can be a positive for some, I feel it is a negative for me, as the community spirit is missing. Although many others are taking on the same challenge as you, you won’t be meeting them!
  • You could easily sign up to so many events that perhaps the sentimental value of the medals you earn could be lost. I am very cautious of this and only sign up to the races which have a strong meaning to me.

All in all, I think these virtual races are a fantastic way to motivate people into being active, as they are not just about running. They can help people to gain confidence and inspire people to take on more challenges, push distances and push themselves. I am a big fan of adding a virtual race to my running year; it’s for a good cause and helps to mix up the race events I take part in… the shiny new medal also helps!


Originally published 06/12/17

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