How to Run a Virtual Race

This virtual race can be run at any time, even before you have completed your first real-life 5K. The Airdrop is FREE to enter and open to all participants in the ULTRA Community!

The “what is virtual running” is a question that I am often asked. A race can be run in real life or on a computer.

Note from the editor: This is a guest article by Jason Fitzgerald.

As the coronavirus epidemic spreads, more and more of our lives are being moved online. We’re doing more things electronically than ever before, from happy hours to kindergarten morning meetings and even first dates.

This change affects everyone, even runners. The days of cramming into cramped corrals and blowing snot rockets near other competitors are long gone. We’re left to run our miles alone, with no race planned for months, instead of drafting behind our opponents and high-fiving at the finish line.

One form of event, however, is gaining popularity: the virtual race.

You’ll be alone before, during, and after a virtual race, unlike a typical race with a certified route and timing system, hordes of other runners to push you to new personal bests, and an announcer firing the gun at the start.

A virtual race is a solo time trial that is compared to the solo time trials of other runners. All of this is feasible because to advances in GPS technology and platforms like Strava.

Simply run the distance as fast as you can, make sure your GPS watch captures the run, then submit it to the internet. The rest is taken care of by the virtual race organizer, and you’ll find out how you did in comparison to everyone else who entered.

The results will be calculated by time (despite the fact that everyone’s route was different), and you may even obtain a medal (virtual or otherwise) and a race shirt – for a fee, of course. 

Virtual races are obviously not “genuine” races for a variety of reasons:

  • Because GPS watches aren’t 100 percent precise, your run’s time and distance aren’t totally correct (official, sanctioned races are on USA Track & Field-certified courses with automatic chip timing).
  • There are no competition, which makes achieving peak performance difficult since there is no one to attempt to catch and surpass.
  • A virtual race is the definition of a “unsupported” race since it lacks an announcer, course markers, or cheering spectators.

Despite the fact that virtual races aren’t the exact, peak performance-generating events that runners are used to, they nonetheless provide a lot of value.

They provide an objective for us to strive towards; they test our fitness; they get us going faster than we do in normal sessions; and, perhaps most significantly, they link us to the larger running community.

And that connection is exactly what we all need right now.

To run a fantastic virtual race, you’ll need to put in a little more effort up front. I’ll guide you through everything it entails down below. 

Select a Beneficial Course

Virtual race participants are responsible for determining the route they will travel to fulfill the required distance. It’s vital to design a quick route if you want to run fast.

Many virtual races enable you to run on a treadmill; instead of sending in GPS data to record your run, you just send in a time report. When it comes to races that need GPS data, though, treadmill readings aren’t always reliable (unless you have a pricey specialist watch), so you’ll want to go outdoors. Even if you are not required to use GPS to submit your race results, I would suggest jogging outside rather than inside to give the event a more realistic sense.


Follow these recommendations before choosing your course:

  • Make as few abrupt curves as possible on your route (90-degree or 180-degree turns cost energy and slow your pace).
  • Choose a track that is flat or slightly net downhill (running big uphills will only slow you down).
  • Stoplights should be avoided since they may compel you to halt your watch (which slows down the overall timing of the race).
  • Avoid running near GPS dead zones, since this can result in erroneous pace and distance statistics.

You’ll have the greatest chance to race quickly if the route is generally straight and flat, with no GPS dead zones or stoplights.

What about the surface, though? Different surfaces have an impact on how quickly you can run; concrete is the hardest substance we can run on, hence it gives back the greatest energy. While this is beneficial for speed, it is also physically taxing. With a larger energy return, we are subjected to higher impact pressures with each footstep, increasing the risk of running injuries.

A moderate approach is most likely the best: a mix of asphalt (the road) and concrete (the sidewalk) will offer you the greatest chance of running quickly and finishing strong with negative splits.

Soft surfaces, on the other hand, are slower because they absorb the energy of each foot hit. For this reason, stay away from dense grass, the seaside, and gravel walkways.

Make it feel as though you’re competing in a real race.

Running a maximal effort race without crowd support, fellow rivals, and the “magic” of a genuine racing environment is undeniably challenging. The body and mind aren’t ready for a high-intensity endeavor.

However, we may get close by treating a virtual race as if it were a real one:

  • Rest more in the days coming up to the event so you can compete fresh and fast.
  • Dress in the same clothing you regularly run in – ideally, ones that make you feel quick!
  • Breakfast should be identical to what you’d have before a race (remember: no surprises on race day).
  • Rather of waiting until later in the day, start the virtual race at the same time as a real race (typically first thing in the morning).
  • Put on your racing shoes (after all, we’re in a race!).
  • Plan ahead of time for water and nourishment if you’re racing a longer distance (there will be no on-course support during the virtual race). 

Virtual races, obviously, need more preparation. Many preparations must be done by the person rather than the race director since there is no structure behind the event.

However, with enough previous preparation, we may persuade our minds that a virtual race is identical to a real race. Any runner will take the race more seriously as a result, putting up a greater effort, and treating it with the respect it deserves.

In the end, you’ll be able to race quicker and finish stronger with negative splits.

Work on your mental abilities.

Even if a virtual event is treated as if it were a real race, runners will suffer harder on the course. There are no cheering crowds, mile markers, or announcers to get the competitors enthusiastic about the race.


As a result, we must depend more on our mental abilities to deal with the drawbacks of virtual racing.

While there are many performance psychology tactics that may help you improve your mental toughness, the following are a few of the most effective:

  • Create a sensory-rich experience of what you’ll see, hear, smell, and even taste on race day by visualizing it. This provides you with a “conceptual blueprint” of what you’ll encounter, ensuring that there are no unpleasant shocks.
  • Before you begin the virtual race, use body language such as power poses to boost your confidence.
  • Personal affirmations or mantras may help you forget about the pain of racing by raising your confidence and diverting your attention away from the exhaustion.
  • Before a race, take a few slow, deep breaths to settle your anxieties and prepare your mind for a maximum-effort performance.

It’s crucial to remember, however, that mental training, like physical training, only works when it’s done regularly over a lengthy period of time. In other words, one session of visualization won’t make a significant difference in your performance. It has to become second nature.

Despite the fact that a virtual race is not an official event, pre-race nervousness may be crippling. If you’re used to being stressed out before a race, you can anticipate a virtual race to feel the same. You’ll be able to run a better race if you use these tactics to make you feel less nervous:


Virtual races aren’t official, and they don’t have the same backing as a sanctioned event, but they’re still fun ways to test your fitness and interact with the running community.

Work hard to put on a fantastic show, and when we’re all back together, you’ll give your opponents a run for their money.

Work hard to put on a fantastic show, and when we’re all back together, you’ll give your opponents a run for their money.

Jason Fitzgerald is a USA Track & Field certified coach and a 2:39 marathon runner. Strength Running has the most up-to-date training advice, as well as a free email course on injury prevention and how to run faster.



The “virtual race companies” will help you run a virtual race. The companies that offer this service are all over the world, so it’s easy to find one near you.

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