Given the speed at which VR technology is developing, taking part in a virtual race conjures images of strapping on a headset and heading for the stars, or at least some of the Earth’s most luxurious locations, for your run.
In truth, virtual races are not quite that exciting, but they’re still a good way to motivate yourself. You sign up for a race online, then run a set distance wherever and whenever you like, uploading proof of your run along with your results. Paying to do this might seem a tad odd, but there are benefits to virtual racing.
Firstly, you usually get a medal, which is nice. Then there’s the convenience of racing in your own neck of the woods, at whatever time suits. They’re also often for good causes and you still get the motivation of competing in an event, which, even at a distance, can get you off the sofa and on the road. Here are a few virtual options to consider.
Run Around The World
The circumference of the Earth is 40,075km, which even the most obsessive ultrarunner will concede is quite a long way. Fortunately you’re not expected to complete the distance solo even if this virtual event is a month long. You, and any teammates you sign up with, have to pick a team – North, East, South or West – and those four teams will compete to see who can complete the distance around the world first. The event runs from 1st-31st July, and half of all profits go to the charity Mind. Solo £12, team £10pp, runatworld.com
Virtual races have gone mobile with this app, giving you the opportunity to race others virtually in real time. Sign up for a Real-Time Race and you’ll get updates on how you are doing in relation to the other competitors. And if you prefer to run to your own schedule, opt for a Flextime race that can be completed at any time within a certain period. The Racerunner events are often tied to well-known events – you can tackle a virtual half marathon race on the the day of the London Marathon, for example – and there are also lots of training runs you can join through the app. Free, available on the App Store and Google Play, racerunner.com
Tactical Zombie Division
If you like to escape to another world during your exercise, Zombies, Run! is the best story-driven running app around, and the team behind it also put on virtual running events with special storylines to listen to. In this virtual run you are part of a team tasked with recovering the Crown Jewels, which have been stolen by thieves taking advantage of the disorder created by a zombie apocalypse. There are 5K and 10K runs to enter, with the virtual event taking place between 19th and 30th April. $30 (about £22), zombiesvirtualrace.com
POW Virtual Running
POW puts on regular virtual events to raise money for a range of selected charities. Most of them are linked to films and TV shows, so if you want a Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings or Stranger Things-themed medal, you’re in luck. POW also stages virtual events that link to real-world runs, including a London #RejectRunner event on 22nd April so all those people who missed out on a spot in the London Marathon can still earn a medal that day. powvirtualrunning.co.uk
Virtual Runner UK
This website offers a huge range of one-off and long-term events, including monthly medals for completing 100km and a year-long challenge to record either 500km or 500 miles in 2018. There are also several events for people who like to run with their dog, with appropriately canine-themed medals offered as a reward. virtualrunneruk.com
Moon Joggers Journey to Jupiter
Moon Joggers was set up with the aim of completing the distance between Earth and the moon, but the group has already covered over 17 million miles (the moon is a mere 239,000 miles away). The 2018 mission is Journey to Jupiter, which is a hefty 484 million miles from Earth, so they need every able body to help out by logging their miles on the website. moonjoggers.com
Hogwarts Running Club
If you like Harry Potter and running – and we mean really like Harry Potter – then this will go down a treat. The Hogwarts Running Club puts on HP-themed events throughout the year, and it’s not afraid to get niche with the book references – the first event of 2018 was the Nargle 9k. All the events raise money for charity and each comes with a unique themed medal to celebrate your achievement. hogwartsrunningclub.org