What are Virtual Running Races & What are the Benefits?

What are Virtual Running Races & What are the Benefits?

What are Virtual Running Races & What are the Benefits?

Written By: SportsShoes

Virtual Racing is currently trending in the world of running, but what’s it all about?

Well if you’re missing a taste of real-life action, then virtual racing is quite simply the next best thing! With a huge range of choice and format, there is something for everyone, ranging from individual to team competition.



From 5Ks to Long-Distance Ultras, it’s easy to see why virtual racing is rapidly growing in popularity. For a start, this type of event is super flexible, which means you can race whenever and, in most cases, wherever you like. It also eliminates, or reduces, the need for travel which is both a huge saving on time and money. No need to fill up the petrol tank, no need to queue at race registration and definitely no need to wait in a long line for an empty Portaloo!

Virtual racing is a great way to keep you motivated and gives you something to train for during the absence of organised races. It’s also a fun way to plan and practise new routes, encouraging you to become more familiar with local roads and trails.

With so many advantages to virtual racing, it’s likely they will keep their place in the sporting calendar, even when traditional races eventually make a full return.




Almost all of the most popular and prestigious races worldwide have been cancelled throughout 2020, so naturally most race organisers are now offering a virtual alternative. Take the UTMB®, arguably the biggest global trail running event, as a prime example. This year, all UTMB® events have been cancelled in favour of 4 new Planet Virtual Races, all of which are based on the distances of the classic UTMB® races and allow competitors to complete the challenges in several runs or in one go. The idea is that you plan your own route, based on the required distance and ascent for your chosen event. Those who cannot manage to integrate the required elevation into their run, can instead apply the kilometre-effort rule, which substitutes 100m of elevation gain for an additional 1km in distance. This inclusivity and flexibility is what makes virtual races so popular and helps to encourage as many people as possible to take part, regardless of their circumstances.

Other events, such as the Sportsshoes Virtual Road & Trail Running Championships, not only offer flexibility in route choice, but also donate any profits to charity. Competitors can enter single or multiple races, with the chance of winning some great individual and team prizes as an extra incentive. The Virtual Running Championships offer a choice of 3 different events to enter, catering for a range of running disciplines including road, trail and fell. Each event works in a league format, rewarding the category winners of each race and also for the overall race series.



In comparison, some virtual races like the Kong Running Virtual Summer Series, encourage runners to compete on the same course, but at any point within a specific time frame. Competitors must first download an app, like MapRun, before running the route in a set direction and visiting all official checkpoints in a particular order. There is usually some navigational choice between each checkpoint, but the results do give a more honest comparison between runners, as everyone is competing on the same course. The only drawback of this virtual format is that almost all competitors will need to travel to the start of the race in order to take part.



For more frequent and long-term goals, online running platforms such as Strava encourage athletes to take part in a variety of monthly challenges. These challenges all range in difficulty and commitment, from 5k races to collective monthly distances and climb. You can also compare your efforts with other Strava members to help improve your motivation. Once a member of Strava, you can enter as many free challenges as you like with the opportunity to win digital badges and some great prizes on completion.

Check out the Sportsshoes.com Strava Run Club for in-house competitions and lots of interesting and inspiring content, or head to our Running Hub for even more tips and info. Need to get kitted up? Check out our running shoes, clothes and gear section.


Related posts: A Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running

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