What a Virtual Run Challenge Taught Me

What a Virtual Run Challenge Taught Me

I never thought I would be a “virtual challenge” runner. It’s not that I thought virtual runs and virtual races were terrible, but they were never my cup of tea.  I also never thought we would be in a pandemic. Like many people, life and routines have drastically changed in the last few months.

What a Virtual Run Challenge Taught Me

Earlier in the year, I had a calcaneus stress fracture. It healed well and it was truthfully the easiest return from injury I’ve had. The easier comeback was partially because I took true rest but also because I caught the stress fracture early enough. Once I had the warning flags, I stopped running.

Anyway, when coming back from injury, I wanted something to keep me motivated. Since there were no races to look forward to, I found a virtual run.

Virtual runs rely on you logging your own miles. No one is stopping you from saying you ran 100 miles when you ran 10. Maybe that’s just part of the running community: trust. Also, most virtual runs don’t offer prizes, so there isn’t an incentive to cheat.

(To be clear, I’m not condoning cheating).

After getting a targeted Facebook Ad for the NJ Virtual Challenge, I decided to sign up. The virtual run challenge had several different running events you could do.  In this particular virtual race, you could run or walk. Some virtual races allow biking, swimming, and any movement, but this one was walking or running.

One thing to note about virtual runs and virtual races is often times they support your local race director or business. With so many race cancellations, many race directors are hurting. Supporting a virtual race can help the come back when the time is right.

Another positive about virtual races is they can be run anywhere and you can choose your race day. When I did a virtual 5k run, I could choose the best weather day.

With the NJ Virtual Challange Some of the Virtual Races Included:

  • Run the NJ Turnpike: 117.2 miles
  • Run the Garden State Parkway 172.4 Miles


  • The NJ Devil Running Challenge was run both virtual runs in both directions.

So What Did Doing a Virtual Run Teach Me?

Teach might not be the right words…maybe what did doing a virtual run remind me of… 


Some years I’m consistent with running and other years I’m not. Usually, there is a day each week that I am just too busy to run.  The pandemic has changed that and I typically have more time. Some days I didn’t want to get out at all. Some days were fast, some days were slow, but they were all miles towards my goal of finishing the virtual race.

Not Every Run is Good:

My miles ranged in pace from 6:30-11:30. Some runs were hot, some felt amazing, some felt terrible, some made me wonder if I would ever finish. But I did and I got out there. Now I look back and I remember the virtual run was fun and I completed a goal.  I even joke my slower miles were sitting on the Garden State Parkway in traffic and my faster miles were cruising on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy:

This is a life lesson that comes up almost every time. At the start of the virtual race, there were a couple of people who ran 100 miles in a single session. By day 3, they had already logged 115 miles. How could I ever compete with that? Then I realized, the virtual race is my own journey. This lesson is obvious and comes up almost everywhere, but it’s always worth noting. Stop comparing yourself to others and previous versions of yourself.

The Journey is Key:

There was no finish line celebration. At the end of the virtual race, I asked myself: Did I enjoy this virtual run challenge? Of course, I did, and it kept me motivated to run.

It’s Ok To Do Things You Never Thought You Would:

I never thought I would pay money to do a virtual run. I never thought I would be a proud #medalmonday person, but there I was on Monday….beaming with my virtual run medals. It’s ok to change your mind and try new things, whether it’s virtual runs or virtual races or just something new in life.

The consistency also made me stronger as a runner. While I’m nowhere near PR shape, I’m in better shape than when I started the virtual run. I went from a 21:00 5k to a 20:08 and I feel myself getting stronger.  I’m planning to do another challenge.

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Questions for you:

Have you done a virtual run or race?

Have you found yourself running more or less during the pandemic? 



1 Comment

  1. Our organisation manages road safety and stewarding for cycle and races. The last race we did was February and nothing until September at the earliest. So many organisers are struggling and a number have had to fold. Anything that helps them is fantastic.

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