Running isn’t the first thing you think of as something that suffered due to COVID-19. Not only were gyms closed and outdoor activity limited, but organized races were canceled. Before I discovered virtual runs, I had already spent hundreds of dollars signing up for in-person races. Organized races are fun because of others participants. There are also photographers to inspire you, and there is in-person celebrating afterwards. The cherry on top is that often, proceeds from races go to a good cause.
Fortunately, virtual runs and races can recreate all of the above – you’ll run alone, but can connect with a community that will span beyond individual races. An added benefit is that your ability to connect with others is not restricted by your location. Another bonus of virtual runs is that they are cheaper – some are even free if they don’t involve a physical medal. They also let you complete the distance in your own time and the rules are lax. You can walk a 5k instead of run it. You can jog at a glacial pace that would embarrass you in public, or even fail to finish and try again another day.
Virtual runs take away a lot of the barriers that may prevent people joining organized, in-person races. There are even tools that will turn your at home treadmill run into an exciting VR experience! I have personally participated in virtual runs with the following companies. They all offer different types of runs, medals, tracking, prices and community connectivity. No matter your speed, endurance, price range or personal preference, the perfect virtual run exists for everyone!
The Conqueror – Virtual Runs
The Conqueror was my first experience with virtual runs and races. While their app is a little antiquated and takes a while to figure out, everything else about them is superb. Their medals are beautiful and affordable for around $30 per medal. All their races are long-distance and can be completed with as many runs, walks, swims, etc. as. you would like. They even accommodate wheelchair exercises and skiing. Plus they have irresistible sales, like this one:
When you sign up for a race with The Conqueror, you need to set up tracking via the app. You can enter manually or sync it with a smart device. I prefer to enter manually because it keeps me motivated to see the progress every day. If you find yourself in a lazy streak and don’t enter anything for a while, you can still go back to enter any walking distances or workouts at a later time. You can also add photos with every entry but it’s on a trust basis, so proof isn’t required.
Run First, Medal Later
While some virtual runs send you the medal right away, you only get The Conqueror medals once you complete the challenges. Most races are supposed to be completed within a year, but they do allow extensions. They have an incredibly quick and responsive customer support team to help you out. My goal of 2,020 km in 2020 was clearly not going to happen, and since the yearly challenges can’t be extended, they advised that I lower my goal. It was humiliating, but they were super understanding and I will still get my medal for my effort even though I only achieved 1,800 km.
I already signed up for a 2021 challenge and have way too many medals, but I won’t be able to resist doing one or two annually with The Conqueror. Take advantage of their sales and keep in mind that you are 4 times more likely to achieve your goal if you join a Conqueror challenge, because it helps you setup a SMART fitness goal and it motivates you from start to finish.
I almost forgot! When you do virtual runs with The Conqueror, you can see photos and basically do a virtual tour of whatever area you are doing. For example, I’ll be signing up for the Egypt one so that I can virtually tour the Giza Pyramids! Despite having traveled a lot and even having been to Egypt IRL, I still find these additions really fun, especially when actual travel is so limited. Joining The Conqueror Challenges will give you access to a Facebook group so that you can e-meet the other participants and get motivated!
US Road Running
Most of the virtual run medals that I own are from US Road Running. Although they offer a few long-distance medals, most of their runs are 5ks. They do not have an app for tracking, as most of their medals are completed in one go. However, you can submit your progress on their website for all to see or post in their Facebook group. Their medals are simple, colorful stickers on a medal base and the low price of around $10.99-15.99 per medal reflects it.
They have specials where you can buy a set of monthly medals for the year for just $110! You can get the running series or the walking series – but as is always the case with virtual runs, there are no real rules. This can be daunting for some but it can also be great to have flexibility. With US Road Running, you get your medals right away and I mean right away… mine are always shipped immediately and I have them within four days at most.
Great Price, Great Variety
What I love so much about US Road Running is the price of medals and the amazing customer support. I’m not sure if Reta sleeps, because she will answer your questions immediately and is really accommodating. However, my absolute favorite thing about US Road Running is the variety of medals. They have one for every country (if yours is missing, you can email Reta and she will create it) every birth stone, every month, every holiday, every EVERYTHING.
To me, having a virtual run medal for every occasion is more than just a gimmick. Having a medal for my birthday means that I will run a 5k before I stuff my face with birthday cake. It brings an active way of celebrating holidays into my life. Plus, you don’t need a new birthday medal every year (although it’s tempting). I reuse my holiday and month ones year after year! My only complaint about US Road Running is the website. It is as outdated as The Conqueror’s app and this makes it harder to navigate.
Finally, US Road Running offers ultra-cheap virtual races for just $1.5 that don’t come with medals but allow you to register and show off your results on the website and Facebook group.
Run Motivators is great because they have a variety of different events. Some you have to sign up for in advance and the medal is shipped at a certain time. Others are ready to ship right away. Personally, I like to have the medal in front of me when I do the race, but there is an aspect of extra push when you need to run first before you get your reward.
What I love about Run Motivators is that they have different options for all their races. I love medals but I don’t need the shirts and other extras. So I always opt for the cheaper option of just the medal, which is usually around $33 for the year-long events. If you want the whole shebang, you can do that too!
They also have Medals of the Month for shorter events that cost as little as $12-14. They truly offer something for everyone!
Run Motivators also have a great customer support – I forgot which race I registered for with them after going on a virtual run shopping rampage and they were happy to help. Plus, Run Motivators have lots of free long-distance events that don’t come with medals or shirts, but don offer tracking. This is a great way to participate without spending the money.
Not only do Run Motivators offer long-distance events such as the 100-mile Run Like a Woman Challenge, they also have shorter 5k or 10k virtual runs. They have beautiful medals and often offer discounts on older events, such as the Horror Series:
Run the Edge – Virtual Runs
Speaking of companies that offer variations on their virtual runs… Run the Edge is another website that lets you buy as much or as little as you want. I discovered them in a Facebook ad via the Amerithon challenge. My jaw dropped to the ground when I saw this amazing medal. It dropped even further when I saw the price…
I shook my head, left the website and didn’t think about it for a while. But then, I got into running and thought, why not sign up for a super long race. When I thought about it, the miles vs price ration made me reconsider. But when I looked into it more, I realized that there were different price options:
- $75 for medal, tracking, passport and shirt
- $50 for medal, tracking, passport
- $30 for tracking only
Suddenly, this seemed way more affordable and I was happy to pay $50 for this giant unique medal! Plus, the Passport, flyover videos and milestone badges are a LOT of fun. It can be discouraging to have such a large goal without splitting it into bite-sized accomplishments which the passport helps you do.
Run The Year
Run the Edge has various events, but one of the most interesting is the Run The Year! They have done this for 7 years and they give extras to people who have done it year after year. This also comes in varous price options:
- $60 for EVERYTHING
- $40 for medal, tracking, etc.
- $30 for tracking only
Yes.Fit – Virtual Run
Yes.Fit differs from the other races in this article because both the website and app reflect the technological advances of 2021. An antiquated app or website should not be a deal breaker, and it isn’t for me. However, when it’s all updated and running seamlessly, it is highly appreciated – thank you Yes.Fit.
There is a wide variety of virtual run events on Yes.Fit that vary in distance and challenge. Unlike the others mentioned in this article, Yes.Fit isn’t focused on just running or cardio, but they have other sorts of physical challenges that can keep you motivated. Their app has a lot of great information and workouts on it, and tracking your progress is really easy.
Their challenges vary in price and the longer ones with larger medals are generally more expensive. For example, the Great American Adventure costs $82 and has no ultimate goal. You’re supposed to. do as much as you can and see where you end up – Yes.Fit. sends you fun emails with information about your challenge.
For example, I am signed up for Dinosaurs, a race based in Hawaii. I logged my second exercise and got this fun email:
Finally, Yes.Fit also has amazing customer support. I swear I’m not one of those annoying people who pesters companies. This time I bought the medal months ahead of wanting to actually do the virtual run. It was they who reached out to me asking if I had any questions or issues with my order. When I explained that I was going to start in January 2021 and asked if that was okay, they reassured me that I could start literally whenever and they were there in case I had any questions.
Marathon Training Academy
Last but not least, I’d like to talk about the Marathon Training Academy. Unlike the other companies mentioned in this post, the goal of the Marathon Training Academy is to train you to run a marathon. They offer tips and guides that will empower you to run a marathon and change your life – their words, not mine, but I love the concept. They offer training plans but they also have long-distance challenges such as the 100 Mile Corona Lisa and the 300 Mile Scream.
The Marathon Training Academy isn’t just about silly medals and fun challenges. They offer invaluable resources to runners to prevent injury, train them to go the distance, and so much more.
Sport Fitness Advisor
If you want to learn more about the process of training for a marathon, Sport Fitness Advisor also has a comprehensive marathon training guide that can offer a more detailed plan to help you succeed in this impressive challenge! This guide is ideal for people who are already able to run 20 miles a week and are preparing for a race that’s at least 18 weeks away. Check it out and consider pairing the guide with one of these many fun virtual challenge options to stay motivated!
Summary – Virtual Runs
Virtual runs and races are amazing because they put the power into your hands. They serve as a motivational tool and you are in charge of how and when you do it. You can run, walk, swim, ski and more! Virtual runs range from free events without medals to expensive races with a medal, shirt, and the works. You can shop 5k medals, 5,000-mile challenges and everything in between.
I doubt that I even scratched the surface of virtual runs as there are so many out there. However, they say that you should write what you know, and I have personal experience with every single company mentioned here. Even though I wasn’t perfect in 2020 and I fell off the healthy lifestyle wagon more times than I managed to get back on, these medals helped motivate me.
I now display all my medals proudly over my treadmill and I’m back at it. Yesterday I ran my first 5k in months, but one of many in 2021. It doesn’t matter if you start slow, if you don’t succeed to run the distance you want right away. All that matters is that you try and hopefully make some progress. Running is literally putting one foot in front of the other. Keep trying, don’t beat yourself up if you fail and consider getting some fun medals to give you that extra push!
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More Virtual Runs and Races Articles
- US Road Running: Virtual Races
- Virtual Brew Run 5k: Shirt, Glass & Medal for $25
- Social Distancing Run: Virtual Marathon Training Academy Race
- Run Motivators: Pizza, Pizza! 40K Challenge
- Amerithon: 3,521 Miles for a 6-Piece Medal
- Yes.Fit – Virtual Fitness Challenges
- Virtual Challenges, Real Medals: The Conqueror & Medal Mad