I have come to realize I have a very particular need in my running habits. I have been running off and on for over a decade. When I first started, I would run to lose weight and drop off when it seemed to be moving too slowly. Then I discovered racing.
A whole new world was opened to me when I began running in races. It was as though my running had been injected with purpose. My daily runs we’re no longer just about calories burned. I had a reason to be out there. I could no longer afford to skip a ruin. Sleeping in would mean losing out on necessary miles and speed work.
Now I am not a fast runner. I have had a few races with respectable times; my 5k PR is 32 minutes, which is far from Olympic speeds, but not bad for a casual racer. For the most part, I am the heavy girl chugging along at the back of the middle. I have finished every race I started, and have only been last twice ( once because the person behind me quit, and the other time because the person behind me sprinted past me in the chute, a move I considered cruel and a bit messed up). I will never be the winner, but I am a racer.
Simply put, I run better when I am preparing for a race. Unfortunately since I moved a year ago I have raced considerably less. While I have more long races available to me living in Europe versus the tiny, but beautiful island of Okinawa, I have less overall races available to me. I went from monthly 5k races, occasionally two or three in a month, to one half or full marathon every six months. I like distance running, and the opportunity to run in many different countries is amazing. But I miss the regularity of racing I used to have. It has been a trade off. And not one I always enjoy.
Currently I attend very few races in the country I live in now. Attending a race means arranging travel and lodging for the destination, not only for myself on race day, but also for my family and sightseeing. It is an ordeal and not always easily affordable on a one income house, ( I know, money talk in crass, but let’s just take a moment to tell it like it is.)
Recently I have found a new outlet for my racing. My brother, also a runner, completed a virtual 14 mile race, and posted a picture of his awesome medal. It had never occurred to me that people ran races, and received medals online. Could this be my racing salvation? I run my normal training runs, but declare them races. I sign up, run the distance and wait for my medal to arrive in the mail.
There will of course be a couple of drawbacks. A virtual race will not be exactly like a regular race. I will be running alone, instead of in a large group. I like running alone, but the comradely of a race is a strange comfort. I am alone, yet with others. It’s a nice balance.
The other large difference, is the medal delivery. There is something wonderful about crossing the finish line and having someone place the medal around your neck. A virtual race there will be no one to place the medal around my neck, no reason to even wear the medal. But I will. The medal is my badge of honor, and it has been earned, even if I have to give it to myself.
The third difference is of course accountability. The rules on a virtual race are a little different; some of them have time periods for the miles to be completed, but most of them that I read do not require the miles to be done in one outting. Some require you to send proof of your completes miles, but not all I have seen seem to care and even those who do say they will forgive you if something happens.
I’m not sure how I feel about this new prospect, but I want to try. I have signed up for three virtual races, to give myself a chance to try this. I suppose I could have started with one, but I found two with cool medals already designed, and one I anticipate being amazing. Additionally, all three are for charity, and with less money needed to organize an event that is not actually happening, hopefully more is going where it should go.
I want this to work, so I am doing my part to make it happen. While virtual races have their own rules, I have decided I need to write a few of my own personal rules in order to feel as though I earned my medals.
1) All miles need to be completed in one go. For the most part, I have seen races saying it doesn’t matter when you complete the miles, as long as you cover the overall distance. I disagree. Everyone else can do what works for them, but as far as I am concerned there is a large difference between doing 13.1 miles in a day, and 13.1 miles over a week. If the race is for a half marathon, I will do a half marathon.
2) I can do more miles, but not less. If my training asks me to complete 14 miles, I can count part of that as a race if I signed up for one requiring fewer miles. However, if my training requires 12 miles, I can’t count that as a half marathon, unless I run the extra anyways. No skimping. If I fall short, I either run around the block until I get there or I use a different run.
3)No double dipping. One run= one race. I can’t run a regular race and call it my virtual race also, or run 10 miles and call it three 5ks.
4)If they mail the medal without proof, I cannot wear or display it until I have finished my miles. It will remain hidden away until I have earned it.
5) I can provide my own race support at home, but I cannot stop at the house to do anything other than hydrate, fuel or use the facilities. No chores in the middle of a race.
I imagine there may be more rules I will determine I need for my own races, but for today I have a virtual race to run.