The air is crisp as you bounce around checking the porta potty lines, checking your watch, checking your watch, anxiety building…it’s that start line feeling of in person events. And while you can’t recreate it with a Virtual Race, you CAN get some killer benefits from including them in your training.
You do your race registration online, just like normal, but then complete the virtual challenge on your own schedule. It’s different, but you’ll still enjoy many of the benefits of a real-life competition, including:
- community support (from your online pals)
- virtual competitors
- the finisher medal BLING
- options between races and challenges to keep you motivated
Virtual race medals are a super fun way to motivate yourself and add a little fun to your group workouts.
I’ve found this to be HUGELY motivational for some of the women I coach who live in areas where there are very few races for a large part of the year. Even signing up for a run challenge to hit a certain amount of mileage over the course of a month will give them a spark again!
What is a Virtual Race?
A virtual race is a lot like a traditional race, except it can be run from any location you choose, at any given time of day, during a specified period.
You can run, or walk, on the road, a trail, a treadmill at home, or even at another race. Plus, you get to run your race at your own pace and time it yourself.
Not only can it be more convenient, but it can also be great for new runners that are looking to race but keep holding back due to nerves or not being sure if they’re ready yet.
And if race bling is what you’re interested in the most, don’t worry! My list of the best virtual races with medals will allow you to get all the bling without the overwhelm that traditional races sometimes entail.
What are the Best Virtual Races with Medals?
Let’s kick things off with some ideas on where to find virtual run events and then we’ll dive more into the WHY and the HOW.
These are some of the best virtual races with medals and shirts I’ve seen this year. Walking, running, skipping, however you want to do it, check out the races offered to find what EXCITES you and get to it.
Virtual Race with the Best Swag: Run With Character
This brand is one of the top on my list because they go above and beyond, plus team up with some of the coolest themes from Garfield’s Donut run to the Home Alone Pizza run!
Garfield creator Jim Davis has decided that he wants to help get more people moving so he’s doing it himself while encouraging our famous four legged pal.
“Garfield stayed in bed while I took a 5K stroll through the Indiana countryside this morning. What a glorious day! My time was one hour two minutes which isn’t bad for the Geezer Division. Now for that donut!” — Jim Davis
Maybe you’ve looked in to a Disney Virtual Race because you so love the themes…I gotta tell you this is better.
It’s half the cost and the swag is 10x’s better than I’ve seen with say, Disney. Truly they go above and beyond with things like limited edition cartoons or medals that look like a pizza and arrive in a pizza box.
Best virtual race with medal, which you can see in the image below! Currently they’re focused on a Grumpy Cat race.
Virtual Race with the Best Motivational Medals: Running On the Wall
This was one of the first virtual races I ever did (unless you count the fun New Year’s Resolution Runs I used to host in the early days of the blog!). I loved this one because they showed up with medals and shirts that said something which I needed to hear like “Never Give Up” or “Always Earned Never Given”.
In other words, swag that you’ll actually wear and want! (see the medal pictured above!)
Virtual Race with Fun Challenges: Rokman Virtual Running Challenges
Not sure you want to do a specific race? Then perhaps what you need is a run challenge that will give you a new goal.
Each monthly series consists of 4 weekly challenges ranging from short speed distances to 24 hour slog-fests. We have a 5 star rating on Trustpilot plus they’re completely free to sign up and take part!
Virtual Race with the Best Themes: Disney Virtual Races
Disney Virtual races have become a big thing in the last few years, but I’m a much bigger fan of the others I’m sharing because the medals and swag are SO MUCH BETTER for the price.
If you aren’t going to experience the full RunDisney with characters and costumes, then you might as well get more to love at home.
That being said, if you freaking LOVE Disney, then these might 1000% be what you need because they will provide you with the motivation to show up for your training and really push hard.
- Virtual RunDisney races DO sell out, likely because of the medals. So if you want to do one, don’t wait.
- Medals are shipped after the race time frame concludes
- RunDisney does charge you a 6.6% fee when registering…why?! The cost is already so high. Sorry, off my high horse.
Race for Frequent Medals: Gone for a Run Virtual Races
One of the biggest around at doing virtual races consistently, they have a smooth, easy to follow process and all the race swag you’d expect from a traditional race.
They do one for nearly every holiday there is and then a lot of fun things in between, like donuts and Mom Needs a Run, ha! And they often benefit a charity, which for me is a HUGE reason to sign up for any race.
If you love your frequent bling, they also have race series which gives you discounts and a chance to keep upping the distance or the pace.
Race with Lowest Entry Fee: Virtual Pace Series
This is another place that offers the full medal with registration and usually a variety of distance options for each race. Super low prices and many of the races are benefiting specific charities.
Best Virtual Races for Charity: Runs for a Purpose
Unfortunately many of the BIG online places that are set up for virtual races year round aren’t so focused on charity, which is one of the things I love about live races.
I have a few key recommendations:
- Checkout Runs for a Purpose, with new races starting all month you’ll find a charity that gets you excited to run! Your selected charity will get proceeds from all who sign up.
- Consider running your own charity virtual race with these tips
- Go directly to the website for a charity you would like to support, many of them are finding ways to do events
- Look for things like #charityrun on Instagram and you might be surprised what you’ll discover
Best Half Marathon Virtual Races
Most of these virtual race coordinators are providing a variety of distances, but it’s much easier to find a 5K virtual race than a half marathon. Meanwhile these races are done by those used to hosting in person events, which I think for some of you makes it feel more real!
- Seawheeze Virtual Half Marathon (bummer you don’t get the shorts they did with in person races, but still cool)
- Run Rock N Roll Virtual Club
- America’s Finest City Half Marathon
- Hapaula Virtual Festival
These options are basically a stepped up version because they’re done by folks used to hosting LARGE in person races, meaning they have a lot more resources to provide higher quality shirts, medals etc.
But do know that because this is a switch for them there could very well be some hiccups.
15 Reasons to Sign up For a Virtual Race
Here are the top 15 reasons I’m recommending more virtual racing to my athletes!
And why I’m going to be using a virtual race to add in some speedwork as I work towards my A races!
1) Flexible Timing
You’ve got more races that you’d like to do than time and you find races rarely fit in your calendar with work, kids, travel, but you still need a goal to stay motivated.
2) Stress Free
Bad weather? Hit the treadmill.
Feeling lethargic? Just enjoy the miles.
Kids got sick so you didn’t sleep? Reschedule.
3) Gear Testing
4) Food Testing
5) Intensity Motivator
You might find that you surprise yourself with a distance PR simply because you’ve been able to get in the racing mindset and you’ll be sharing your results
6) Readiness for Your Big Race
Wondering if you can tackle a longer distance? While a big race might add some motivation, it often scares many away from even trying…this is a chance to test the waters.Everything you need to know to get the most from a #virtualrace - and why you need to do them! #runchat Click To Tweet
18-24 weeks of training for a single race often leaves people feeling burned out. If you sprinkle in some fun virtual 5k’s, 10k’s or even half marathons along the way it allows you to work on speed and have additional goals.
8) Community Building
One of the reasons I encourage the annual Resolution Run is because it’s a chance to run with those near and dear to you. Sometimes having a goal beyond just a run will excite them and with some of the swag that virtual races now provide it’s a major bonus (see below).
Virtual runs for charity are also becoming increasingly common. You’ll find a number of them that allow you to make a donation with your registration.
9) Embarrassment Free
One of my favorite, ok I love them all equally, athletes was terrified to sign up for a race. She didn’t consider herself a runner though she’s faster than many people I know!
A virtual race allows you to start treating yourself like the runner you are without worrying about all the logistics or others looking at you.
10) Summertime Activities
Kids going crazy in your house? How about organizing a neighborhood run with a virtual race like Never Give Up where they get shirts, medals, stickers and obviously some bragging rights after they put on that race bib and go!
11) Avoid The Crowds
With COVID-19 still ongoing and social distancing still being an on-and-off part of our lives, avoiding large groups sometimes becomes necessary. Plus, sometimes you just want to avoid large crowds because of the long waiting lines it entails.
Regardless of your reasoning, virtual races allow you to run on your own terms and avoid being overwhelmed by large crowds!
12) Save Money
In-person races are usually more expensive, and you don’t normally get a discount for race cancelations, say because of bad weather. Virtual races are normally easier on the pocket and help save money!
13) Chance to Get Creative
Virtual races are a great way to get creative with your running routine!
Traveling to a new city? Why not use a virtual 5k to explore it? You could even plan a destination race with a loved one or friend who loves to run by picking the city you want to travel to and registering for a virtual race!
14) Train with Purpose
Want to train but don’t know if you’re ready for a race? Then give virtual races a shot! It’ll help you train with purpose without the added nerves! You can even break down your bigger goals this way.
Say if you want to run a marathon in the near future, you can use shorter virtual races and challenges to not only hold you accountable but to also help you stay on track!
My Couch to Half Marathon training plan is perfect if you want to run a half marathon, but want to achieve smaller goals in the middle since you’ll be doing a 5K and 10K during it!
15) BLING, BLING, BLING
Virtual races have come a long way and now they always include some hardware and great shirts! Virtual races with medals aren’t always the case, but I think it’s super fun when they do because so many folks LOVE their bling!
“If you’re a competitive person, it can be as motivating and fulfilling as a ‘real’ race,” says Matt Dubberley, a former professional cyclist. “The community sees what you do and can be engaged in your activities, even though they aren’t with you while you’re doing them.” – Outside online
How do Virtual Races Work?
You’ll find the whole process is surprisingly simple.
- Select a Race on their site and register!
- Mark your calendar for the date you’ll do the race (give yourself a 24 hour window):
- It could be part of your training plan, per your running coach
- It could be on a specific day like New Year’s or Thanksgiving
- It could ask you to run a certain number of miles over a given time period
- Optional to print out a race bib
- Run your race in the defined race period. Pick out your own starting line, turn it in to an event and ask friends to cheer or simply enjoy a run with a purpose.
- Log your time where required (i.e. Strava or just sharing on social media with the assigned hashtag)
- Wait patiently for your awesome medal and/or t-shirt (often mailed at registration)
- Then enjoy your hard earned medal for Instagram Medal Monday!
- Proudly display that medal on your medal hanger!
Let’s not over complicate this, that’s part of what makes Virtual Racing such a great thing!
Do Virtual Races Count?
This was an important discussion I opened up on social media a few weeks ago. The consensus that was prior to everything shutting down many people would have said no. Then they had to start running alone all the time and figuring out how to push themselves.
Then they started trying to run a race without the energy of their fellow runners, without the adrenaline of that morning, without the course support and the tides changed.
YES! Became the new answer because in fact it’s much harder to go all out on your own, especially on a distance run!
Feeling a little lost lately with all the changes or wanting some assistance figuring out how to train and what’s next?
Checkout the Run To the Finish LIVE group coaching program.
Looking for more running tips?
- Couch to 5K Training Plan
- Couch to 10K Training Plan
- Learning how to pace yourself while running
- Fueling Strategy for Half Marathon
- What to Wear for a Marathon
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish