COVID-19 has deprived runners of participating in live marathons and 5Ks, but they’ve found an alternative. Over the last few months, virtual races have started to gain traction in running circles, as people continue to search for ways to stay active. In the wake of races being canceled, runners have found a new way to do what they love and stay competitive!

What is a Virtual Race?

With live marathons and local 5Ks on pause for a while, virtual races have stepped in to fill the void. Virtual races are similar to larger, organized events because they offer running gear, give out awards, and compare your race times with other runners. Racers plot their own course and submit their times online, where they’re shared on a results page.

a person tying their shoe

Why Should I Sign Up?

There’s something special about crossing a finish line, knowing you’ve battled through the burning sensation tingling down your legs for the past few miles. Even though there isn’t a big banner awaiting you at the finish line, you can still feel accomplished during a virtual race.

Chart Your Course – In most cases, when you sign up for a race, the course has been pre-plotted. The benefit of participating in a virtual race is that it gives you the freedom to run wherever you deem fit. If you prefer to stay at home on a treadmill, go for it! Whether it’s in your neighborhood or a park, you can design the course to your specifications.

Find a Charitable Cause – Some of the biggest and most notable races started as a way to raise money and awareness for a charitable cause. From the Color Run to the L.A. Marathon, there are numerous races dedicated to giving back. If you’re looking for a reason to participate, it doesn’t get much better than racing for charity.

Avoid the Crowds – Large crowds aren’t recommended at the moment, but also, does anyone really enjoy being grouped together like a can of sardines? The idea of avoiding mass groups of people and getting some breathing room is an added bonus as well. Virtual races eliminate running clumped together and alleviates any pressure you might feel about pacing another competitor.

Your Health – The obvious pro of participating in a race is the health benefit. Running has been proven to improve cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol, and heightens your immune system. You don’t have to be the world’s fastest runner but incorporating a run into your workout routine can help for various reasons.

Make New Friends – Believe it or not, virtual races are an excellent way to make new friends. Technology continues to create new avenues to form relationships and virtual races are a good way to join a new community. Find individuals who share your passion for fitness and racing!

a woman running

How to Start a Virtual Race

As more and more virtual races pop up around the world, finding a way to make yours unique can be challenging – let alone getting started. Don’t let the intimidation of planning a virtual race prevent you from doing so; follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way.

Figure Out an Incentive – Consider offering fun prizes, such as gear or equipment to attract your clientele. If you’re a gym or fitness center, offer a voucher for a free class or a one-month discount on their membership fee. You can go a step further and partner with a local charity or a cause of your choosing.

Pick a Date – Once you’ve figured out a fun and innovative way to promote signups, determine when your race will take place. Virtual races require a window to submit race times, which can take a few days. Find a week or month to host your race, so your participants can allocate time for the event.

Decide on a Distance – Virtual races appeal to both experienced and inexperienced runners, so how do you find an appropriate distance to serve each? 5Ks aren’t too long, but they aren’t too short either, serving as a happy medium for all ages. Your race can also have options, that way participants aren’t limited to running one set distance. The focus is on raising awareness (if you picked a charity or cause), building relationships, and getting active. Allow your clientele to do what they feel comfortable with.

a track

Creating an Experience – When your racers approach their imaginary starting line, they should be excited about the event you’ve created. Leading up to the race, utilize Vagaro’s Email and Text Marketing tools to remind them about their upcoming run. On the actual day or week of the event, consider hosting a live stream event, revealing the winners and their results.

Where to Find Upcoming Races

The next few months are packed with virtual races and many are worthy of looking into. Be Fit Be You is hosting a Halloween 5K, and Brew HaHa runs from October until December. You can enter to win a cool stainless-steel mug! For those interested in a charitable cause, due to COVID-19, CHOC will be hosting its annual Disneyland walk virtually this year.



Virtual races are changing the way we engage with each other and how we stay active. There are numerous reasons to join or establish your own. Explore the ways you can create a virtual race and see if any are offered in the Vagaro Marketplace!



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