A virtual race is a race that can be run (or walked) from any location you choose. You can run, jog, or walk on the road, on the trail, on the treadmill, at the gym or on the track. You get to run your own race, at your own pace, and time it yourself. And your medal will be shipped directly to you. Complete a virtual 5K, 10K, half marathon and more!

There are no parking problems. No crowds. No long Porta Potty lines. There is no start gun or nervous, pre-race chitchat with other runners.There's not even an official starting line.

That's the kind of flexibility offered by virtual races, a new trend in the running community. Runners who sign up for a virtual race register online and simply choose their own starting line, whether it's a treadmill or a neighborhood street. They run the race distance, upload their finishing time and a few days later are mailed a medal.

It may seem strange to traditional runners, but race organizers say the virtual race is a great option for those who want convenience


Years ago, before national championship meets, high school runners mailed in their times to a national postal competition, and a champion was then selected and announced.

This was the early model of virtual racing.

It's unclear when virtual racing made the leap online to a mass audience. Some race directors say it evolved from runners’ requests to participate in physical races from afar. Regardless, in recent years virtual racing has exploded in popularity, mostly because of its flexibility.


"There are many people who would love to participate in physical races but are unable to for one reason or another," says Mark Petrillo, founder of Virtual Strides, a small business that organizes virtual races and donates a large percentage of the proceeds to charitable causes. "With virtual races, you don't need to deal with traffic, parking, poor weather or unexpected schedule conflicts or injuries that might cause you to miss the race."

It's also an easy way to practice race day nutrition and hydration, says Alex Anastasiadis, owner of Running on the Wall, an online shop that sells all things running.

"Virtual races can be used to experiment with new training plans and methods to find out what works best for you on nutrition [and] hydration before and during the race, supplements, resting and waking time before the race, apparel and many other very important factors that can make you or break you on your big upcoming race," he says.


If you come from a “real” race background, you may struggle to understand why anyone would enter a virtual race.

Even if you would never do a virtual race yourself, however, it is essential that you understand the reasons why people enter virtual races to be able to market yours effectively to them.

There’s three main groups of people taking part in virtual races:

  • First-timers: For them virtual races can provide the perfect stepping stone to a live event and help them build the confidence they need to enter a race in the real world.
  • Veteran racers: On the other end of the spectrum, virtual races can provide seasoned racers with a flexible alternative to traditional races at a lower cost without the constraints of having to train and race at specific dates.
  • Fans: Lots of virtual races run on a theme, e.g. a Harry Potter 5k or Great Escape 10k. Themed virtual races provide a fun new way for fans to engage with their favourite franchise, collect theme merchandise etc.

So, however unconventional, virtual races do make sense for a lot of people for a number of different reasons.


Generally speaking, tracking and verifying finish times for a virtual race will not be as simple as for a live event, where chip timing takes care of all that. People will complete your virtual race at different times and under different conditions. ​

Fortunately, competition is not a deciding factor for most people entering a virtual race and although finish times will be tracked, there will be no prizes for podium winners.

Participants will be able share finish times via email or online forms, or use specific tracking apps to complete their race whereby they will be ranked unofficially.

  • Expand your reach
  • Want to expand beyond your country or state? Reach a completely different audience or demographic than your live events?
  • Virtual races are ideal at expanding your reach to new audiences and territories. This can be great in and of itself in scaling your virtual race, but can also open up a whole new audience you could monetize through brand partnerships and other initiatives.
  • Build an online community
  • Last but not least, virtual races can help you build an online community where you can interact with athletes (and they can interact with one another) throughout the year. This can be particularly beneficial if you only host a couple of large events per year and have few touch points with your audience outside your usual race season.