Live sports events were just another casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic that saw the world go into strict lockdowns to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
With running events and challenges canceled, planners, promoters, and clubs sought different ways to incorporate virtual events into their calendars, allowing runners and other fitness fanatics to take part on their own and track their progress along the way.
While the world has returned to a semi-normal state, virtual events are still a popular option for those who don’t have the time, money, or capacity to participate in live, in-person events.
Let’s explore the world of virtual running by looking at why it is so popular, the benefits of joining a virtual running club, and a list of the 15 best virtual runs, races and challenges you can do in 2023.
- Why Virtual Running is So Popular
- Why You Should Join a Virtual Running Club
- 15 Best Virtual Runs, Races, and Challenges for 2023
- 1. Run Across America
- 2. The River Run Virtual Race
- 3. runDisney
- 4. Dino Might Challenge
- 5. Run 2023km in 2023
- 6. Conqueror Virtual Events
- 7. Run Hawaii Virtual Marathon
- 8. My Magical Miles
- 9. Rokman Challenge Series
- 10. The Slow Runners Virtual Challenge
- 11. Space Race
- 12. E-Runner Run for Peace
- 13. Edinburgh Virtual Challenge
- 14. The Route 66 Virtual Challenge
- 15. The Marathon to Athens
- Why Virtual Racing Is Here To Stay
- Get Started with a Virtual Run
Why Virtual Running is So Popular
The first-ever virtual running event was held in March of 2020, just as the pandemic began to take hold of all corners of the globe.
Fast forward three years, and virtual running has taken off in a big way!
From cycling to walking to jogging and running, even kayaking is allowed, as the aim of the game is to rack up those miles and track your progress as you take part in some of the more intense virtual challenges that have become so popular.
Thanks to technology and the incredible advancements in social media, connecting with like-minded people across the globe who share your passion for running is easy, and this, too, has led to a rise in the popularity of virtual running events as it gives you the ability to participate in a running event in America from anywhere in the world!
There are, however, a few downsides to virtual running events, with the most obvious one being the lack of camaraderie and motivation that usually comes with in-person events. This can also be overcome by using apps, social media, and virtual running clubs to connect with fellow runners and share your successes and downfalls.
Virtual running is often cheaper than in-person events, as there are no travel and accommodation costs to consider. All you need is a good pair of running shoes, a good running route, and you are sorted.
Why You Should Join a Virtual Running Club
Accountability, motivation, and connecting with like-minded individuals are all great benefits that you can enjoy when you join a virtual running club. While they are mostly private, entry into these exclusive groups can be obtained by participating in a virtual running event.
Share your successes, motivate your fellow runners, and make friends worldwide when you join a virtual running club. There are so many to choose from, but the following clubs are the most popular and have the most members of any other clubs around the world:
#1: Virtual Running Club
Simple name, simple rules. All you need to do to join the virtual running club is sign up and join a world of thousands of runners that enjoy virtual events. Get exclusive inside info on the most popular races to participate in, get cool running gear like t-shirts and other necessities, and most importantly, connect!
#2: Medal Mad
Medal Mad has been around since late 2016 and started as a UK-based running community that would meet to tackle some of the biggest races in the country. Now also offering virtual running membership, the club has grown to an impressive online community of more than 100 thousand adults, and their newly-formed children’s club is quickly growing in number too.
#3: The Klubb
Santa Barbara-based The Klubb began as a community of runners coming together to enjoy runs. Now an internationally acclaimed virtual and in-person running club, The Klubb is known for its incredible events and participation numbers. Join The Klubb and meet fellow virtual runners from all over the world as you share a passion for running and medals.
15 Best Virtual Runs, Races, and Challenges for 2023
Here are the 15 best virtual runs you can sign up for. While some are “based” in the United States, others are in the United Kingdom. But all have one thing in common – they can be done from absolutely anywhere in the world!
1. Run Across America
Fancy taking on a 5km, 10km, half-marathon, or full marathon that sees all money raised going to fantastic causes like Feed America? Run Across America is an annual event with twenty different activities to choose from – including running, kayaking, cycling, walking, or rolling along on rollerblades – and in-themed runs allowing you to track your progress via a mobile app on your phone.
Your entry fee includes a race t-shirt, bib, bag, and access to the Run Across America tracking app.
2. The River Run Virtual Race
The River Run Virtual takes place between January 4 and December 25. The event consists of a 5km, 10km, half-marathon, or full-marathon run that celebrates the beauty of the rivers of America.
- A medal.
- T-shirt (optional).
- Training plan to help you achieve your goal.
- A digital journal to share with other virtual runners.
- A monthly newsletter with interesting facts and highlights of the event.
Die-hard Disney fans will enjoy this spectacular series that sees runners collecting three Disney-themed medals over the course of three 5km runs. With another special edition theme available on completion of all three events, a total of four medals are up for grabs and are great for any Disney collector.
While it may seem a bit boring to do a race of this kind on your own, you can get your friends or running group to join in the fun. Dress up as your favorite Disney character as you hit the road to complete the runDisney challenge. The first of many themed events take place between April 14 and April 16, 2023, so sign up today to avoid missing out.
4. Dino Might Challenge
The fourth event we will cover in our “best of” list is the Dino Might Challenge. It consists of 100 miles of running and allows the runner to collect dino-themed pins at checkpoints throughout the race. The more checkpoints you pass, the more pins you collect.
Runners are given a medal on completion of the race, a lanyard to display the pins, access to the private Facebook group, a tracking application, and collectible pins.
The Dino Might Challenge is held throughout the year, so be sure to check out the website for details.
5. Run 2023km in 2023
Via The Klubb
Did you know running 39 kilometers a week will add up to 2023 km in just one year? It might sound a bit challenging to the average runner, but this challenge is aimed at those with incredible mental strength and focus as it takes you on a grueling 2023-kilometer run.
Sign-up includes a downloadable and printable training program to help you reach your weekly goal and access to The Klubb group, where you can help motivate others and be motivated to keep on track.
Tracking can be done using the Strava app.
If outdoor running sounds less than appealing, you can do the challenge on a treadmill.
6. Conqueror Virtual Events
The Conqueror is one of many fitness challenges and runs that see you running anywhere between 21 to 2,280 miles over a given time. Track your progress using the Conqueror application and sign-up to enjoy the challenge.
There are a few new and exciting Conquerer races to look forward to this upcoming race year, including the Lord of the Rings-themed challenge that sees Tolkien fans from around the world take part in a grueling challenge that will test your mental and physical strength.
7. Run Hawaii Virtual Marathon
If you have ever wanted to run the Hawaii Marathon, now is your chance. The event now offers virtual participation, allowing you to run a 5km, 10km, half-marathon, or full marathon race and earn a medal.
Sign up for this challenge before the end of February, and ensure that you keep track of your progress using the app provided. The runner’s package also includes a full training plan to help you reach your goal.
8. My Magical Miles
This is a virtual challenge with a difference, as it offers a menagerie of events that will see you running between three and 250 miles, depending on the event you choose. Each event has a cut-off time of 60 days to complete, and you can sign up for additional events at a reduced price.
Choose to walk, run, jog, or cycle your way through challenges like the Under the Sea 20km, Changes Bring Transformation 50-mile, 100-mile Wood Challenge, and the Shakespeare’s Way 146-mile challenge.
Commemorative medals are delivered to you post-event and are a great keepsake to show off to your family and friends.
9. Rokman Challenge Series
The Rokman is a month-long challenge that consists of weekly challenges from short speed runs to longer distance treks or hikes, testing your physical strength and ability like no other challenge on our list.
With new challenges each month, each challenge is an opportunity to gain a medal of completion, a cool t-shirt, and other race memorabilia that you will be only too proud to show off and display on your mantle.
Popular virtual running challenges include the following series:
- US Ranger
- Four Horsemen
10. The Slow Runners Virtual Challenge
This 5km, 10km, half-marathon, and full-marathon challenge is one of the best for those who want to get into the world of running. Featuring a series of themed events, including a children’s run, The Slow Runners Virtual Challenge is one for the whole family.
Other popular events include:
- Light Cardio Virtual Race
- Save the Chubby Mermaids (Manatees) Virtual Race
- Run Against Breast Cancer Virtual Race
- Burnt Out Virtual Race
- Oktoberfest Virtual Challenge
Sign-up will get you a race bib, a themed photo backdrop, digital certificates and medals, online results, and details on how to track your progress.
Get the whole family into the fresh air when you sign up for one of the Slow Runners Virtual Challenges.
11. Space Race
Ever wanted to learn more about our solar system while participating in a grueling fitness challenge that sees you cover 400 miles? You can do this and more when you sign up for the Virtual Running Club’s Space Race event.
With eight milestones to cover – and eight planetary pins to collect – the challenge will test your mental and physical ability as you track your miles on the Virtual Running Club application.
- A lanyard.
- Free shipping on all items.
- Eight planetary pins.
- A medal of completion.
Do it solo, get your running group involved, and have fun!
12. E-Runner Run for Peace
The world has watched in absolute horror as Ukraine has been battered and bruised by an invasion from Russia. Want to help but don’t know how? Sign up for the E-Runner Run for Peace, where all proceeds go to helping Ukraine in its battle for peace.
Sign-up for the challenge and show the world that you stand for peace when you take on the E-Runner Run for Peace. Track your progress with the handy purpose-made application, and gain exclusive access to the biggest community of e-runners who run for various causes.
13. Edinburgh Virtual Challenge
The Edinburgh Virtual Challenge is one of the biggest and most popular running events in the UK, and when you see how many people participate in this race, you will understand why. Featuring a series of events between one and 26.2 miles, the race is great for those who want to start slow in the world of virtual running.
Once only an in-person event, the Edinburgh Virtual Challenge has allowed digital or virtual participation since the early 2020s.
Sign-up for this once-in-a-lifetime run and enjoy one of the UK’s oldest runs.
14. The Route 66 Virtual Challenge
Famous Route 66 in the US serves as the perfect backdrop for this 2,280-mile run that will take you through the most famous spots along one of America’s most famous highways.
Forming a part of the Conqueror Events and Challenges, the Route 66 Virtual Challenge is a tough one that will push you to your limits as you go through some of the more infamous locations, with a virtual postcard available for each along the way.
Track your progress using the handy app, and complete the challenge in your best possible time to win a medal.
15. The Marathon to Athens
Athens has always been synonymous with running and held its first marathon event all the way back in 1896. Fast-forward a few centuries, and running is still a big part of the city’s culture, making it the ideal digital location for one of the world’s best virtual runs – the Marathon to Athens.
The marathon is just one of many events held by the Conqueror Challenges and sees runners complete a 26.2-mile run through this epic city. But running is not the only form of measure allowed. The event allows participants to run, cycle, kayak, swim, and treadmill their way across the great city of Athens, marking their progress on an application as they go.
Information about the route and beautiful images available on the specialized app will make you feel like you are in Athens.
Sign up today and experience the culture and beauty of one of Rome’s oldest cities when you take on the Marathon to Athens.
Why Virtual Racing Is Here To Stay
Virtual races have become increasingly popular over the last few years, with social distancing putting a damper on in-person races worldwide.
Several communities and charities host virtual races and challenges throughout the globe. Because these races can be enjoyed from wherever you are, it leaves you with an almost endless number of choices.
Virtual races are very similar in nature to normal, in-person races.
However, the biggest difference is the fact that you can participate in the race from anywhere in the world. Most virtual races also allow you to complete the event in your own time, provided you complete the race by a certain date or within a certain period.
Virtual races can be run using a treadmill, on the road, on a mountain trail, or even during another in-person race with peers. You can walk, jog or run through any virtual race. Some virtual challenges incorporate other methods of exercise, such as cycling.
Most virtual races and challenges offer race memorabilia to their participants. This generally comes in the form of medals, T-shirts, and other race memorabilia. Many challenges consist of multiple stages. These multi-stage races will generally give participants a medal for every completed stage or segment.
The quirky memorabilia mailed to participants often serves as a major incentive to participate and finish the races. As you can imagine, the biggest difficulty with virtual races is finding motivation. With in-person events, you have the adrenaline and pre-race anxiety to keep you going.
When participating in any in-person race for which you have to train, you also have the set goal in mind of the official race date.
This generally serves as a major motivation for most participants. Without such motivation, it can be difficult for runners to stick to the schedule.
This is where virtual runs come in, recreating some of the motivational aspects of in-person races to give runners a specific goal to work towards. Most virtual challenges grant participants access to exclusive groups where runners can reach out and keep each other motivated.
The fifteen virtual challenges selected for this article were chosen based on their unique character, interesting memorabilia, and variation in terms of physical challenge and financial outlay.
Get Started with a Virtual Run
As you can see, there’s no shortage of weird and wonderful options for virtual races.
With no limit on location, you could keep yourself busy all year collecting medals – and you’d probably do wonders for your health and fitness in the process.
Whether you choose your virtual race based on the potential incentives such as medals and T-shirts, or your choice of race hinges on the connection with the rest of the racing community, you will find a race that appeals to you.
Whichever race you choose, remember the main intention behind any type of sports event – enjoyment!