Is VIRTUAL here to stay?

Virtual running is not new.  

Virtual sport is not new.

But today, as the world is gripped in lockdown, virtual running is taking off like never before. 

Runner’s World, way back in 2015 asked the question, ‘Are Virtual Runs the Future of Racing?’ In an article by Alison Wade.

‘Virtual Racing is not a new concept. Postal races—in which competitors mail in their times to be compared with others—began decades ago. But advances in technology have improved runnersexperience of events from their own treadmills, and as the sport has grown, so has interest in this alternate way of racing.’

The joy of virtual is quite simple, you participate wherever you can, when you can and in many scenarios, in any capacity. It shows us that our need to belong, to be part of something is very strong, even if we are doing the sport alone and virtually.

‘Remote entrants received a downloadable bib, finishers certificate, and the races official swag…’

Some races reach capacity, London Marathon would be a good example. Virtual can allow someone to run a route at the same time as an official race on a virtual course using an app that simulates the course.

To be honest, many of us now have some form of tracking device, be that a watch, phone or additional gadget. Many subscribe to an app on their phone, be that on Android or Mac that allows us daily to update a training session. Strava being an obvious one but so many others exist.

Technology used to be something that was feared, but now it is embraced. 

Regina Jackson of ‘Will Run for Bling’ created in 2013, said to Alison Wade, ‘Many of those who run our races have busy lives and are attracted to the fact that they have nine days to complete each race. Others are drawn in by the fact that they can break up the run into shorter segments and still get credit for completing the race.’

But times are changing…

As races throughout the world are being cancelled or postponed, race directors have been looking for opportunities to retain their market, inspire the audience and still provide engagement. Equally, runners or sports people who desire an event and community have pursued alternatives. Interaction, that sense of belonging and the need to participate a driving force.

So, the transition has been seamless, and, in some scenarios, it has exploded to a level that one would have struggled to comprehend just 4-months ago.

A prime example being the recently started (May 1st) ‘The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000km’which allows participants to travel across Tennessee (virtually) from may 1st to August 31st. Quite simply, you have 4-months to cover the distance by any means and daily you upload your distance (even if it is a zero) and via an interactive map, your dot is moved along the route.

The above is brought to us by Gary Cantrell aka Lazarus Lake of the famous Barkley Marathons and Bigs Backyard Ultra. Now, Laz is like the Pied Piper, people love him and love his crazy ideas. However, I don’t think even he could have anticipated that a 1000km virtual run would explode like it has. As they say on the sign-up page, ‘To complete, the race will require only a hair over 5 miles per day…  and those who want a little extra on their plate, you can do the out and back version – 2,000 kilometers!

The numbers are phenomenal, $60 entry fee and currently over 17,569 participants. There is a charity element too for ‘Feeding America/ Tennessee’ – the donation page is showing a current revenue of $96,533. And now, there is even a ‘Doggie Run Across TN for Animal Shelters’ with a sign up of $30.

Depending on viewpoint, for now, virtual races and challenges are filling a gap that many of us are missing as we are forced to social distance and lockdown. As restrictions ease, and life starts to return to some normality, I can’t help but think an element of virtual will exist at a greater level than before January 2020.

As one runner has told me, ‘I race for the atmosphere, being around hundreds with a similar passion and then testing myself at the same time and on the same course as everyone else. I like the meet up before and the post-run gathering. It’s more than running, it is community. So, racing is really important for me and many others. However, the virtual world has opened my eyes to a new way of training. I love the fact that maybe I can run across Tennessee in 4-months and the great thing is, should I get an opportunity to race, I can use that mileage too for the virtual challenge.’

One thing is for sure, in the ultra-running world, a challenge is a challenge, be that real or virtual. Recent months and weeks have shown us that imagination is the only limiting factor.

In Spain, friends Kilian Jornet, Pau Capell and Tofol Castanyer created an indoor challenge. Fueled by the lockdown that did not allow them to run outside, with the help of Albert Jorquera, Jordi Saragossa and Maria Fainé, they created ‘YoCorroEnCasa’ translated to IRunAtHome. With just a week of planning, they brought over 7400 people together, all running ‘in the home’ and in the process they raised €82,940 for charity – they did not take a euro. I followed their example and did the same in the UK on April 18th with IRunAtHome raising £20,000 for charity.

Taking inspiration from Lazarus Lake, Dave Proctor (who holds the 100-mile treadmill world record) took the ‘Backyard Ultra’ format and made it into a virtual event using technology such as Zoom and YouTube to bring runners together, from all over the world, to run 4.1667 miles every hour, on the hour. Over 2000 signed up. The challenge was to see who would be, the last man or woman standing in the ‘Quarantine Backyard Ultra.’ After 2+ days, ultra-running legend, Michael Wardian emerged victorious with 262.5-miles beating Radek Brunner. Notably, Michael ran outdoors using a loop of road around his house, whereas Radek ran on a treadmill. 

Listen to a podcast interview with Michael Wardian HERE

 Salomon runner, Ryan Sandes was locked down in South Africa, but that did not stop him. Taking on a personal challenge, he ran 100-miles in and around his house is 26-hours and 27-minutes. Article here.

And on May 16th, 100-mile world record holder, Zach Bitter, will look to set the 100-mile WR on a treadmill with a virtual run that will be streamed live for the full duration of approximately 12-hours. He encourages people to join him on their own treadmills and experience the journey.

 Racing will return. The trails (and even roads), the scenery, the landscape, the mountains and fresh air will bring us back to start lines. The need to share a journey and experience, to test one’s self in real time is something that is primal. The need for physical interaction, before, during and after a race is something, we all need. 

It’s unclear when virtual racing made the leap online to a mass audience. Some race directors say it evolved from runners requests many years ago to participate in physical races from afar. Regardless of the original origin, this year, virtual racing has exploded in popularity.

Virtual is here to stay and no doubt, at a far greater level than when this year began.

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References: Active.com here Runners World here New York Times here The Washington Post here

#IRunAtHome April 18 2020 – summary

DONATE HERE

April 18th, 2020, amid a worldwide lockdown due to Covid-19, a global run community came together between the hours of 9am to 9pm with one purpose.

Run at home.

Raise funds for the NHS who are fighting Covid-19.

I could literally write and write about the experience. To see young and old, runners and non-runners globally come together to test themselves #athome was truly mind-blowing and I am still coming to terms with the emotion of the day.

From seeing a 2-year old cover 1-mile to a pro-runner covering 131km on a treadmill, there was no experience too small or large.

A community came together, encouraged, supported, applauded and cheered on as donations flooded in.

I set the goal to raise £10,000 for the NHS and as I write, donations are at £12.222.46 and with Gift Aid £14.131.07. I am leaving the donation page open and I am quietly confident with a little rallying, funds will increase.

So, if you are reading this and have not donated, please go HERE.

I personally did the best I could monitoring all that went on for the 12-hours and I ‘tried’ to message everyone, encourage and support. I am sure I failed as at times, it really was difficult to keep up. Especially when I did my own challenge of a 1000m vertical and descent up and down the staircase in our apartment block.

So, if I did miss commenting, accept my apologies. I am going to try and backtrack and go through all the posts and hit a ‘like’ and make a comment.

Needless to say it has been a magical experience and one that I would like to repeat… Maybe when all this nasty Coronavirus is over, we can celebrate on Apr 18 2021 with a reunion…?

FOR NOW, A HUGE THANK YOU FOR COMING TOGETHER.

As one lady said, ‘I have spent 4-weeks alone and isolated. Today, I was alone once again but virtually I made friends around the world. I shared a mutual experience, did some good and felt loved and wanted.’

Families came together, mum ran with dad, dad ran with mum and the kids did their bit. I know from my end, we had a ball creating something fun and different and in the process, many of us had an art lesson with the bibs.

Below is a collated summary of the day. I have tried to capture as much as possible.

THANK YOU ALL

Episode 185 – Kilian Jornet, Albert Jorquera and Michael Wardian

Episode 185 of Talk Ultra is a Quarantine Special with Kilian Jornet and Albert Jorquera talking about  Yo Corro En Casa and Michael Wardian talking about winning, the Quarantine Backyard Ultra.
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We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 
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Donate HERE
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00:32:14 ALBERT JORQUERA
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01:04:55 KILIAN JORNET
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01:16:28 MICHAEL WARDIAN
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Please read three articles that coincide with is podcast:
Race Cancellations and Covid-19 HERE
Covid-19 : A Simple Guide HERE
Home Office HERE
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Please listen to the INTERVIEWS – please follow the show
Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
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02:22:00
Keep running
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#IRunAtHome – #YoCorroEnCasa – RUN VIRTUAL

#IRunAtHome / #YoCorroEnCasa

Pau Capell, Tofol Castanyer, Kilian Jornet and journalist, Albert Jorquera thought that it would be a good idea to all get together and run virtually, at home, at the same time with the Spanish run community. Ultra-trail runners love to spend long hours running in the mountains, but they wanted to emphasize that during this quarantine and isolation period, the most important thing is to get out of the house as little as possible and help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Listen to KILIAN JORNET

The four, together with Jordi Saragossa and Maria Fainé, decided to create the #YoCorroEnCasa (IrunAtHome) Challenge. With this challenge they wanted to bring a maximum number of people doing sports together in the home; distance did not matter, it could be 100 metres or maybe a marathon! The important aspect was the social side, the coming together as a community to share an experience.

To participate ‘officially’ in this ‘virtual run’ participants made a donation to #YoMeCorono – The team of doctors and researchers who had started pioneering clinical trials to define which drugs will immediately be used to treat the infected patients, prevent ongoing contagion and look for a vaccine against the virus.

It was a huge success with over 7400 participants.
The total raised was an incredible 82.940 Euros.
Every single euro was donated to charity.

This pandemic has deprived us all of so many privileges, running may seem insignificant now, but getting together to run in the mountains or on trails is not possible for most of us. We, as runners though are not willing to give up, we are going to fight Covid-19 together to stop it and fight to continue doing what we are passionate about.

So, come April 18th we want you to join us with the tag, #IRunatHome and in the process we will race funds for the NHS Charities Covid-19 Appeal.
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“Our amazing NHS staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to care for COVID-19 patients. And we want them to know the country has also got their back. We are so proud and in awe of NHS staff and volunteers as they work tirelessly to save lives! This means staying away from their homes and families, working day and night, to treat as many people as possible in need of care.”
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We have multiple confirmed elite runners who you can virtually run with.

Jasmin Paris

Damian Hall

Andy Symonds

Tom Evans

Holly Page

Finlay Wild

Tom Owens

Beth Pascall

And more joining daily.

Please help us spread the word and help us raise money by #IRunAtHome

April 18th 2020 starting 0900 GMT till 2100 GMT.

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DONATE TO THE NHS CHARITY HERE

REGISTER TO PARTICIPATE HERE

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Rules for entry

We appreciate that depending on where you are located, that it ‘may’ be possible to run outside by respecting social distancing. However, this challenge is all about ‘Staying Home’ and self-isolating and joining other runner’s in a challenge of #IRunAtHome

  • You must run in your home and/ or garden/ treadmill.
  • Any distance is acceptable.
  • Start at any time from 0900 and finish before 2100 hours.
  • To enter, please DONATE HERE at a specific charity page, all funds go directly to the charity.
  • Register to run HERE.
  • You will receive an email from Eventbrite, please check as you will be provided a link to download a Run Bib. Be creative with the bib! Add a number, name and decorate.
  • Encourage family members to take part, no age limit. The more runner’s, the better.
  • Spread the word. (Logos HERE)
  • Be creative, this is more about being social and sharing – share videos, photos and tell the world that #IRunAtHome

Luis Alberto Hernando and family shows how to be creative with #IRunAtHome

We thank adidas TERREX who will support with prizes of run shoes for the most creative runs and social media posts. Make sure you tag #IRunAtHome and use our Facebook and Twitter account.

Join us

 FACEBOOK HERE

TWITTER @IRunAtHome1

 
RUN VIRTUAL
#IRunAtHome