The Virtual Event Handbook

With the Coronavirus pandemic rocking the world of Endurance Events, Organizers and Participants are increasingly looking for alternative options to fill their race schedules and keep them on their feet.

That’s where Virtual Events are set to make their impact; while they may lack the cheering crowds and never-quite-ripe banana at the finish line, they make up for in droves with with the convenience of setting out from the comfort of your own home, avoiding frustrating course bottlenecks, and choosing your own route at your own pace. With the same post-race goodies being delivered to your doorstep alongside the ability to connect virtually with fellow participants globally – and not a single portable toilet in sight – there is a lot to love about Virtual Events. 

So, What is a Virtual Event?

The premise is simple; you sign up for an event, only instead of gathering in one location, participants can take part all over the world – with at least 2 metres of social distancing in between them – completing the event remotely.

You take on the event distance in your own time at the location of your choice, whether that be the local park, your surrounding neighbourhood, or a national park you have access to. Some events require you to record your activity and submit it in order to track completion and devise leaderboards. Others rely solely on trust. Whatever it may be, the hope is that by completing the event virtually, it retains the community aspect and sense of achievement that participating in endurance events offers.

Why Should I Participate In A Virtual Event?

With the majority of events being cancelled in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, Event Organizers – including big names such as Ironman –   participants in the UK and the US are increasingly looking to Virtual Events as an alternative solution. Hosting Virtual Events provides Organizers with a way to retain participants already signed up to cancelled events, and also the ability to attract a greater number of new participants from previously untapped geographies – even allowing them offer a greater number of events in their race calendars.

There are also a number of big benefits for participants: 

  1. Convenience – Virtual Events can be run in any location, and along any route. Some Organizers – in order to retain the race-like aspect and simplicity – provide a time frame for the race to be completed in (usually a few days), but some can be completed whenever you please. This means that those participants usually hamstrung by volatile or unfavourable work hours, remote locations, or other time-draining responsibilities (e.g. childcare) are now able to set out in their own time and still achieve that finish-line feeling.
  2. Cost – Virtual Events tend to be cheaper than their physical counterparts. Pair that with not needing to travel and the cost-savings can be significant. Items that organizers choose to offer with entry differs between events, but many still offer the post-race goodies of a regular event, often including the thrill of hanging that post-race bling around your now clean (because the medal came in the mail) neck. Make sure to check the specific event page for details on what is included with your entry. 
  3. Comfort – While the adrenaline of an event often offers a boost of speed and confidence it can also be nerve-wracking, especially for newcomers to the sport. Virtual Events are a perfect opportunity to tackle your goals without the watchful eye of spectators and fellow runners, taking the pressure off and allowing you to go forth comfortably at your own pace.
  4. Community – Regardless of where in the world your finish line may be, there is something comforting in knowing that you are not alone in the mid-route mental battle. Stories from your challenge can still be swapped and that finish-line glow can still be shared with thousands of participants worldwide.

What Do I Need to Participate in a Virtual Event?

The beauty of Virtual Events is that the barrier for entry is extremely low. Essential items are a pair of running shoes and a device for recording your run. This can be either a GPS watch if you have one, or a run tracking app like Strava or Nike Run Club downloaded onto your smartphone. We have put together a list of our favorite GPS watches and running apps to help you prepare. 

Other than that, depending on the distance of your event, you’ll need anything you might require on the day of a physical event. Since there will be no water or aid stations along your route (except maybe the local grocery store), make sure you bring enough fuel and refreshments to sustain you throughout your race, and let a friend or family member know where you’re heading. 

Tips for A Seamless Virtual Event

  1. Plan your route ahead of time – make sure that the route you are going to take is the correct distance for your event; there’s nothing worse than busting it 100m for the finish line, only to find out you were 50m short.
  2. Find a traffic-free route – We all know how disruptive and frustrating it is having to stop at every stoplight. Planning a traffic-free route reduces the number of stops and starts, and allows you to find a good rhythm like you would on race day. Likewise, try to avoid congested parks – not only to stay in line with social distancing guidelines – but mostly to spare the poor person who tries to get in the way of you in your zone.
  3. Prepare for event day – It may feel like just another training session, but getting in the right mindset by preparing like you’re going to the physical event is essential for putting your best foot forward. The Virtual Event is still the event you have been training and pushing yourself towards, so don’t let it slip in the basics – get lots of sleep, hydrate, and fuel yourself correctly for the day.
  4. Charge your phone – Many of these Virtual Events require a screenshot or picture of your time and distance travelled to verify your completion of the event. Make sure your phone or tracking device is fully charged before you start.
  5. Download and understand the tracking app you’re going to use – there are a plethora of tracking apps out there, and it is difficult to know which one to use. If you don’t have an activity tracking watch like a Polar or a Garmin, apps like Strava or MapMyRun are great options for tracking your movements. Simply snap a screenshot, picture of your watch, or your activity tracker link, and upload it onto the submission page. 
  6. Enjoy yourself! – At the end of the day, we all take part in these events because we love the sport and love the feeling that these events bring us. Revel in that feeling and let it carry you across the virtual finish line to the cheers of thousands of your fellow virtual participants.

When in doubt, it can’t hurt to give it a try. Here at Let’s Do This, we’re committed to helping you find and enjoy epic experiences as long as it’s safe to do so. This continues with Virtual Events, so check out some favourites on our site.

Let’s Do This, Together.