Given the speed at which VR technology is developing, taking part in a virtual race conjures images of strapping on a headset and heading for the stars, or at least some of the Earth’s most luxurious locations, for your run.
In truth, virtual races are not quite that exciting, but they’re still a good way to motivate yourself. You sign up for a race online, then run a set distance wherever and whenever you like, uploading proof of your run along with your results. Paying to do this might seem a tad odd, but there are benefits to virtual racing.
Firstly, you usually get a medal, which is nice. Then there’s the convenience of racing in your own neck of the woods, at whatever time suits. They’re also often for good causes and you still get the motivation of competing in an event, which, even at a distance, can get you off the sofa and on the road. Here are a few virtual options to consider.
Run to the Deep
Mark British Science Week in your diary (if you haven’t already), because between 9th and 16th March you can take part in Run to the Deep, a virtual 10K where you travel to the depths of the ocean. During your run explorer Pierre-Yves Cousteau (son of Jacques) will describe a journey from the surface of the ocean to the Marianas Trench, the deepest known part of the ocean. You’ll hear about famous ocean explorers and truly bizarre sea creatures during your run, and the event is entirely free, though if you want some goodies you can pay £15 for a finisher’s pack. runtothedeep.com
Tactical Zombie Division
If you like to escape to another world during your exercise, Zombies, Run! is the best story-driven running app around, and the team behind it also put on virtual running events with special storylines to listen to. In this virtual run you are part of a team tasked with recovering the Crown Jewels, which have been stolen by thieves taking advantage of the disorder created by a zombie apocalypse. There are 5K and 10K runs to enter, with the virtual event taking place between 19th and 30th April. $30 (about £22), zombiesvirtualrace.com
POW Virtual Running
POW puts on regular virtual events to raise money for a range of selected charities. Most of them are linked to films and TV shows, so if you want a Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings or Stranger Things-themed medal, you’re in luck. POW also stages virtual events that link to real-world runs, including a London #RejectRunner event on 22nd April so all those people who missed out on a spot in the London Marathon can still earn a medal that day. powvirtualrunning.co.uk
Virtual Runner UK
This website offers a huge range of one-off and long-term events, including monthly medals for completing 100km and a year-long challenge to record either 500km or 500 miles in 2018. There are also several events for people who like to run with their dog, with appropriately canine-themed medals offered as a reward. virtualrunneruk.com
Moon Joggers Journey to Jupiter
Moon Joggers was set up with the aim of completing the distance between Earth and the moon, but the group has already covered over 17 million miles (the moon is a mere 239,000 miles away). The 2018 mission is Journey to Jupiter, which is a hefty 484 million miles from Earth, so they need every able body to help out by logging their miles on the website. moonjoggers.com
Hogwarts Running Club
If you like Harry Potter and running – and we mean really like Harry Potter – then this will go down a treat. The Hogwarts Running Club puts on HP-themed events throughout the year, and it’s not afraid to get niche with the book references – the first event of 2018 was the Nargle 9k. All the events raise money for charity and each comes with a unique themed medal to celebrate your achievement. hogwartsrunningclub.org