Welcome to another edition of Try New Things Tuesday! I love trying new things, especially when they’re related to running. This week I’m going to talk about my first ever virtual race! I’ve never done one of these before, but I’ve read so many Facebook posts and blog posts about them that I decided to try one for myself. Plus, it counts as my first race in 2014 and race #1 in the 14 in 2014 challenge! Back in January I signed up for Run With Jess’s Winter Miles Challenge. My goal was to run at least 10 miles each week throughout the winter, and each week if I meet my challenge I’m entered into a drawing for a sweet prize. The main event of this challenge is the Snowball Shuffle 8k.
It was free to run, but there was an option of buying a long sleeved moisture wicking shirt and a sweet medal. Of course I had to buy the bling! The best part about this virtual race is that you had an entire week to complete it. With my crazy schedule and kitchen situation it was nice not to have to commit to a single day for running this race. On Friday the weather was absolutely amazing – high 30s with sunshine! It almost felt hot out! I headed off to Ridley Creek State Park to create my own 8k course. RCSP is crazy hilly, so I parked at the top of the huge hill and decided to run 1 mile out and back on the flattest (but definitely not flat) portion of the trail. It might be cheating, but I knew it would be the fastest option! Luckily the trail had been plowed and was free of ice and snow. After high-fiving my husband like I do before every race, I was off and running!
I’ve never run a virtual run before, but I’ve always been curious about them. I never really understood the point before – I mean, the whole point of racing in my opinion is to push yourself as hard as you can in order to get the fastest time possible, which gets posted online. And the best part of a race is running with other people and having a crowd of people cheering you on at the finish! Also, the post race snacks are pretty awesome, and a virtual race does not have that 🙂 So going into this race I decided that I wanted to treat this as a “real” race and push myself as hard as possible. I hadn’t run outside in almost 2 weeks, so I went out super fast on my first mile! I was just so happy to be running in warmish weather in the snow-covered forest that I couldn’t contain myself! My first mile was under 10:00, so I decided I would try to see how long I could keep up that pace. After 2 miles, I was in my happy place and started feeling that awesome zen feeling that you can really only get from running outside. By mile 4 I was exhausted, but I knew I had to keep pushing myself. I saw my husband right before the “finish line”, which of course was imaginary and had no spectators or timing mats. But as I finished I felt just as proud as I would during a race, especially when I saw my time!
I was absolutely blown away. This race was basically 5 miles, and during my 5 miler on December 30th I finished in 55:14. So I took almost 6 minutes off my finish time after only 1 month! And the best part was that I didn’t actually feel like I was going to die! My husband caught up to me and gave me the biggest high five ever. Back in the car in finally hit me – I had majorly PRed, kept my pace under 10:00/mile, and actually felt really good after it was over! I began to cry because I couldn’t believe how amazing it was to be able to say those things! I remembered all of the 5ks I struggled through at 10:00-11:00 minutes per mile, and how I never thought I’d be able to even run 5 miles for so many years. Running is pretty awesome 🙂 I think training for the Disney Princess Half and adding cross training into my training plan has made a big impact on my speed and endurance!
So what did I think about running a virtual race? On my scale of 1 to 5, I give virtual racing a 3!
- It was cheaper than a regular race (registration was FREE!) and I got a medal! I’ve never gotten a medal for a race shorter than a 10k, and this one was pretty cute.
- No crowds to weave around in order to find my perfect pace – I could run as fast as I wanted.
- No lines, parking issues, or waiting for the race to start!
- I could create my own race course, which was a perk because I could make it happen wherever I wanted! I chose a course in the forest with minimal hills and seriously enjoyed the views from the race course.
- I didn’t have to worry about interacting with people during and after the race, so if you’re a bit shy about running with a bunch of strangers but want to do a race going with a virtual one is a great option!
- There was no race-day feeling – I didn’t have my usual nervous butterflies which was good, but I also felt like it lacked that special feeling that you get at races which make you want to do your best.
- The fun race swag cost extra money.
- Crossing an imaginary “finish line” was kind of anti-climactic and if I hadn’t PRed I would have probably enjoyed the finish less.
- No post-race celebration or snacks (hey, it’s kind of the best part about finishing a race! I’ve gotten post-race pizza before!)
- There’s no winners or way to place in your age group, so competitive runners may not enjoy this type of race.
Overall, I liked running the Snowball Shuffle 8k, but I might only sign up for future virtual races if I’m really passionate about the cause. I loved that I got a huge PR, but even though it happened during the virtual race I still don’t feel like it really counts like the Kris Kringle 5 miler did. There were a lot of pros, but overall I just felt like it wasn’t as much fun and exciting as a real race! It did get me pretty excited for the Abominable Slowman 5k this Saturday though! I’ll hopefully crush my 5k time too!
Have you ever run a virtual race? What do you think about virtual races?