Virtual Racing After Covid

Assuming that we get the vaccine rolled out through 2021 and we head into 2022 with the ability to roll back out in-person racing across the country, who will still take part in virtual races?

Are virtual races here to stay?

What would it take for you to consider adding a virtual race to your calendar?

I think virtual races will have a spot in racing into the future. If nothing else, they give a real reason to have a fun race pace style training session on the calendar.

Hey David,

I think that racing companies have real opportunity to reach a larger crowd if they were to continue to offer virtual races, even after the pandemic subsides. I know for many, the ability to offer virtuals has been their only means of survival until we are able to safely race again. Those who have not pivoted to virtuals have likely suffered.

Once we get back to our busy lives post-pandemic, I would absolutely consider taking part in virtual races whose entries benefit causes that I believe in. I actually signed up for several this year for that specific reason. Most of the road races around me typically benefit some type of charity which is half of the draw of why I have always done road races. These places still need support, maybe now more than ever. Just my two sense, but I do hope virtuals are offered for some time because everyone’s comfort level is different and having a virtual race can provide a sense of purpose and inspiration. We all need that :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


I actually enjoyed the virtual races I did in 2020. At 59, I’m not really looking to be competitive, so I don’t miss the “sprint to the tape” of in-person racing. Also, the logistics are so much simpler. To be fair, I’m lucky enough to have Kennesaw Mountain trails a mile from my front door, so my virtual races aren’t much of a compromise in scenery or terrain.

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Yeah. Sounds like you have a special place to run.

For all the bad things of Covid (and there were certainly a lot) it did expose us all to the possibilities of virtual racing. I suspect the race directors that understand the power of virtual racing will do well with this format for years to come.

Not to be the lone downer, but I don’t see much of a point in racing virtually, as long as in person is an option. Besides the obvious components of challenging myself and the atmosphere, I can see three “buckets” for why I’d pay for to race. This could be an excuse to go on vacation (like Vegas and a trail race or rock n roll marathon), a reason to visit somewhere I wouldn’t really consider otherwise (I’ve chosen specifically to do my ironman in a “flyover” state), or to remove difficult logistics (point to point course along a complete trail, Shawangunk Ridge style).

Why would I pay to run on the same trails I regularly do for an arbitrary distance? I don’t need any more medals, t shirts, or bragging rights, so I find it tough to justify. I’m sure they will be around for a while as RDs experiment, and some people need the external motivation or convenience, but I see them fading out eventually.

Good points…virtual racing, to remain viable long-term, needs to entail something more than just run this distance and I’ll send you a shirt. Some gamification or deeper community/cause around the race.

I can see charities have success in virtual racing, if they can find the right balance between the mission and the challenge

Everything these days is about gamification isn’t it :stuck_out_tongue:

In all seriousness though, charity is a good cause for many people I hadn’t considered. I’d bet someone with big brand recognition could leverage virtual racing very effectively. If Red Cross put on a “5K for xyz recovery” it would probably be hugely successful.

Another issue I didn’t mention above, is the whole issue of verification/validation. My company put on a virtual 5k last year and the proportion of fast times compared to the previous years was outrageous. I know elites don’t keep races in business, but this is something that would definitely need to be addressed through some means to maintain the integrity of the events.

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I did a “split marathon” virtual race where we ran a 5k on Friday, 2x5miles on Saturday, and a half on Sunday. Typically, I would not get to do a race like this in person and I loved it. I had to do it all on the TM using a Stryd for my foot pod but what the organization did is they calculated your elevation gain into their scoring systems.

They also did a system where it wasn’t the fastest person who won. Rather, they asked your z2 pace and predicted your marathon pace from that. The person who came closest to that predicted time won. It was interesting to have that added element. I would rather them go with the fastest but that would be hard to validate.

I think VR can thrive with events that cannot take place in real life (like the one above).

This is the same issue that cycling is having on Zwift. You have to go through some pretty extreme lengths to validate people’s credentials such as videotaping weighins, posting power files etc. While this works for the pros it would be hard to do on a large scale.

For running, it would be something like valid GPS watch but even that can be hacked (riding a bike slowly but just fast enough to win). Inside on the TM would be even harder.

I had a few virtual runs in 2020 (even won a virtual marathon hahaha - probably I was the only one who signed up there) and I did all of my virtual runs to support the organizers.
Without us many wont survive.

In terms of hacking…there is some really cool machine learning that is going on in the wearables space.

They are getting to the point where they can drill into things like normalized heart rate, cadence, etc. to get a pretty decent digital “fingerprint” to address things like hacking the system.

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