I’ve always scoffed at the idea of virtual races. Really, my thinking goes, why even bother? They are not ‘real’ races so what is the point? I would never in a million years sign up for one. But after having all my spring races canceled because of Covina 19, I began to rethink my dislike of the concept. When Darcy and I decided to forego a July trip to Wisconsin for my initial six day race at the Dome (we are in a high-risk group for the virus and hesitated to fly/stay in hotels), a virtual race sounded reasonable. Steve Durbin, RD for the Six Days in the Dome race, mentioned this Race Across Tennessee that he and Laz (of ARFTA fame) and Mike Melton (timer extraordinaire) were putting on.
After researching the race at RunSignUp, I realized that this virtual race followed the path of the Last Annual Vol State event – and since I am way too chicken to attempt the real race, doing it virtually would be a fine substitute. Little did I realize that 19,000 other runners and walkers all over the world would feel the same way. A walker friend mentioned that this was the 2020 version of Woodstock. I did not want to miss out. Besides, to accomplish the 635 mile journey required only a little over 5 miles a day. If I wanted to put in the time and the mileage, I could even make the return journey before the August 31 deadline.
It took me only several minutes to make up my mind. I registered, and on the May 1 starting date, I completed 15.1 miles. My goal was to aim for 10-15 miles a day so I would easily be able to make the trip both ways. Since that time, I have managed to do between 12 and 20 miles. Having a goal has lifted my spirits and given me a focus to my training. There is no real sense of competition (except among the frontrunners, some of whom are already on their way back) so I can relax and slow down if I want to. However, I am enjoying the whole idea of pushing myself just a little more each day to see how much I can do. The wilting Florida heat and humidity may soon change my mileage goals a bit but as the summer progresses, I plan to walk earlier and earlier in the morning.
RATS (as participants are called) get a tech tee shirt (which I plan to give away, since I don’t wear technical shirts – and the medium size is enormous) and a medal at the finish. There is a category for dogs as well, but I thought 1000k was a little too burdensome for Shadow.
This concept of virtual races over long distances has caught on – there are a LOT of them out there – and I decided to sign up for several more, especially since it is fine with RDs to ‘double-dip’ (i. e, mileage completed for one race can be counted towards other races). Since the idea is FUN (not winning) and most of the money goes to various charities, it seems an enjoyable way to spend my training miles while I wait for real races to begin again.
The other races I’ve entered are Chase the Jester Across California (beginning May 25 through December 31), the Florida Coast to Coast 400k Challenge (June 1 through July 31), and Tip to Tip – The Great Florida Traverse 901 miles (June 1 through December 31). I even talked Darcy into doing the bronze level of the Jester race – that requires just 1 mile a day, and he and Shadow (yep, she’s signed up too, for that one) already do 1.3 miles on their morning stroll.
Now I’m a convert to virtual.