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November 13, 2020

One of the good things that has come out of lockdown and the cancellation of many of the races we love is the rise of virtual races. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’d never thought about how a virtual race would work and what was the point. But now I’ve been involved in a couple over the summer I can see they are a great way to keep motivated during this year when our normal races have been cancelled or postponed.

On our Run to the Hills Facebook page I asked members to share their thoughts about what motivated them to take part in a virtual race this year. Here is a summary of their answers. I think it gives a good cross section of what has been motivating us during 2020.

  • I was surprised how much I enjoyed doing it virtually and even got a 20 min PB on the course which really surprised me and since I've ran 3 other virtual races. (Kelly Sullavan)
  • I liked seeing all the different ways people were getting up to the 96 miles over the 9 days my motivation to do it was I was coming back from injury so the time to walk run was a good mix and doing it over the 9 days really took the pressure off and made it a more reachable goal. (Derek Chambers)
  • I’ve only ran one virtual race and that was a 50k during lockdown round my local golf course. I DNF’d an ultra a few weeks before lockdown and felt I had a point to prove to myself, so I went out and smashed it. (Mark McDonald)
  • I haven’t really got into the virtual races, had a couple of injuries and haven’t found them massively motivating, but the couple I did enter it was about community and getting caught up in the group online. Both times the Facebook group is very active with lots of chat and support (and lovely silliness), and the race organiser has been really good at whipping everyone up into a frenzy and leading it all. (Jo Barrett)
  • I did the Centurion One Community and The One Up combined with Lakeland 100! I love Centurion races and I was due to do Lakeland so it was an easy decision to enter the virtual races. I loved the whole community spirit of these virtual races. I am quite picky about which ones I do but have entered the centurion 100 for the end of the month (of course!) I think the motivation for me is committing to the distance and knowing my friends are in it with me! A Facetime chat with my pals during a long run is great! (Jane Stephens)
  • I like the motivation that it gives me to consistently get out there and run even though there’s nothing specifically to train for at the moment. Also, some of them have had great community involvement online. (Ross Beveridge)
  • I ran the virtual UTMB in the summer. Although there was the remote chance of a prize entry to the real race, the real motivation was to give some focus to the running I was doing. Enjoyment came from the actual challenge (I am quite goal orientated) and as a bonus I liked that I won a £300 discount voucher from Columbia, UTMB sponsors. (Mike King)
  • They are a different kind of hard and that I was surprised to love. I’ve done two, Kielder marathon and the Lakeland L100. With both I was working a full day’s work and commute, so fitting stuff in and around that was the ultra-challenge. This took a little planning and I found splitting the days running into a before and after work run perfect. But also fitting family life around it too, I found running when everyone was sleeping wonderful, so I would run for two or three hours from midnight and loved that most of all, nobody about except a few fishermen, it then became more real, head torch, stars, crazy hours running, such a running high . Never the same and certainly lacking the hills where I live but this new none normal v running thing actually gave me back my running mojo under strange times. (Tony Allen)
  • My running club has held a whole series of virtual events, lots of variety of different events /distances/ strategy. All events have had a few weeks to do them so have fitted in around life. Points have been awarded for each event for our club competition. Event 13/14 currently in progress! Kept my motivation going all year! (Georgina Phillips)
  • I have only done a couple. With the most recent being the Fryupdale full. I absolutely love the enthusiasm and efforts of the organisers to keep us moving. As always motivation breeds motivation and this combined with an opportunity to get out, enjoy the country, test your self-discipline & bag 30 plus miles of Yorkshire wonderfulness then why wouldn’t you. (Paul Richardson)
  • I used to think 'what's the point' but have to admit that they have motivated me to get out over lockdown when I might have been less eager. I've done a few which have specific climbing goals as well as distance and this has really pushed me to try some harder stuff than I would have ordinarily done. (Helen Munro)
  • I did the Hardmoors Fryupdale virtual. I liked it because I got the chance to do it on the actual course and the motivation was that the miles counted towards the 1000 mile club in addition to the fact I knew entries were supporting the organisers and providing some income for local volunteer groups eg mountain rescue. We need to work together to support the organisations that cater for our weekend fixes to ensure their longer-term survival. (Simon Middleton)
  • Enjoyed UTMB. Was nice to have a race as a challenge after so many were cancelled. (Stuart Macfarlane)
  • I did the Cockbain Accumulator in May when we were not meant to travel to exercise. The local paths round here don’t really thrill me, so it was extra motivation as well as the challenge of the event itself. I also got involved with Covid trig challenge and cycled and ran to lots of trig pillars and other trigs. It was interesting to explore places local but up to now ignored. I set myself a challenge, the Lancashire Witches Way 52 miles over some hills. I hope to do Cockbain The Hill, I might do his 6in 6 but not sure about the tarmac running. I might do Escape from Meriden 24 hr release. Have been doing lots of MaprunF Orienteering routes and getting back into navigating. Again, a challenge, a chance to explore and a reason to run when it would be easy not to bother. (Karen Nash)
  • I love the Lakeland events. I love how they raise so much money for the charities. I entered the Lakeland 100 to motivate me to get out for miles in the legs for events that could possibly go ahead. But then I entered the 50 as well just for a donation really. Then I started to think 155 miles was doable. And it was. The virtual event with the charity donations helped me. I have done a couple of Hardmoors events to support the organisation. If we don't do this. They may not be there in the future. I am already entered into the Lakeland Lapland and the double is in my thoughts. (Mick Browne)
  • I did a Hardmoors virtual ‘fry up’ half marathon around the actual course. For a change I liked the idea of doing a shorter hard route where you can throw yourself around and it not worry about saving anything for the last 20 miles. The route was completely unknown to me and as I was on my own with no other runners to follow it felt more of an adventure. The fact that it was a virtual, although not competitive and not just a training run definitely helped me give a little bit more. For motivation I like medals. I like T-shirts. I like the idea of supporting races through difficult times. I like the fun element of trying to match a virtual race and its elevation in a more familiar local training area which I’ve just done for the Hardmoors virtual Goathland full marathon. I just couldn’t find another 500 feet from anywhere to cover the actual elevation but never mind, the intention was there. (Kev Gay)
  • I’ve completed a few different virtual races since lockdown including the WHW relay and the Manchester Marathon. Primarily I’ve enjoyed the fact that you can set your own route and start time. As well as being able to plan and complete the “race” with my favourite running buddies. It has provided focus and motivation to train, explore some while exploring some beautiful new trails in Scotland. Importantly it has also helped with my mental health. And of course, who doesn’t love a medal. (Adrian Abbotts)
  • I’ve ran 2 virtual ultra-marathons. The princess challenge ultra and Hardmoors Fryupdale Marathon both 32 miles. I ran the princess ultra with my two babies in the buggy. I love the fact that even virtual races like Great North Run and the wall (done over 2 weeks) I have been able to do with the boys something you can’t do in live races. My toddler even did the princess short and sweet virtual race 8.5 miles over a couple of weeks. I love how inclusive they are. I’m currently doing the Pennine way I’m 80 mile in I have until March. (Deborah Jefferies)
  • What I liked most, was seeing parts of the country side that is outside my door. My motivation is simple, I enjoy being fit, healthy and active - but most important I felt connected with my WHW family. I’ve only ever done one “virtual run”! (Yan Horsburgh)
  • Loved the Centurion One Community event in May and doing it again this time. Nothing can beat the energy of an actual race, but with bed to event being approx 10 mins, with familiar trails and an unfamiliar goal, with family support cos frankly they are usually too busy doing their own stuff to come to a race, it’s the perfect way to do a multi-day event!! The motivation, well I could do it any week that’s true, but I like a bit of bling, I like the feeling there are others out there sharing the experience and it’s the most fabulous way to train for future endeavours!! (Kirstie Ashton)
  • I took part in the virtual WHW event this year, it was the participation in a community that I liked best about it, Facebook posts and live chats helped the participation. While I’d have been running around anyway during the time, it was great to have a focus! (John Curran)
  • I took part in the WHW, Great Glen and Lakeland 50 virtual races throughout the summer. The Great Glen and Lakeland 50 I've ran before, and I loved just being part of the community and sharing posts with others again. The WHW was my big race this year, so even though it couldn't happen the virtual event still made me part of the race experience, I also ran my own 30 mile ultra as I felt it was the right thing to do for the WHW. It was all brilliant fun juggling miles between work and family doing what I love (Morven Walsh)
  • I did the virtual WHW race. It’s the only virtual I’ve done and only did it because of the community spirit and posts as the week went on. I was going for the triple crown this year as my come back post serious injury but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I found the virtual harder simply due to time. I didn’t have the weekend written off to do it so had to fit the distances around life. On the last day I just needed to go out and run until I had completed it no matter how long it took. (Nicola Dawson)
  • I've done several virtual events this year, from 5K to ultramarathon. Reasons include (variously, often in combination): to support the organisers of events I would normally run 'in person'; for the community feel; to help maintain motivation; to keep progressing towards 100 ultras; to support charities and plant trees; to earn medals that I've been wanting for my collection (no, it's not 'buying' medals - I still have to complete the run). The 5K and 10K challenges (club, and EA virtual 5K) pushed me to massive new PBs for those distances while the ultras kept me running long. (Debra Bourne)
  • We entered a range of virtual events, from 5k's to the GNR Solo (40 runs in 78 days). Although they were poor substitutes for the real thing they were good fun. The best thing was seeing the comments from people that might not have entered the real event but felt part of the virtual one and may now do it for real in the future e.g. WHW & Lakeland 50/100. I'm fairly 'internally motivated' in my running so my main reasons for entering virtual events this summer was to support the race organisers. (Andy Norman)
  • I think the only attraction that they have for me is the sense of ‘community’ that they can bring which I would normally have got from weekly parkruns or regular races. (Roz Glover)

We all hope that next year we will be able to get back to taking part in real races but for now thanks so much to race organisers for providing that motivation we needed to keep running during this difficult year.

If you are looking for another ‘virtual’ race to take part in then we feature two in Episode 14 of Run to the Hills

Centurion One – Monday 23rd – Sunday 29th November 2020


Lakeland Lapland Virtual Ultra Run – Thursday 10th – Tuesday 22nd December 2020