2020 certainly has been a roller coaster for mass participation events. Firstly UK races were cancelled due to storms, then came the ongoing wave of cancellations due to the COVID pandemic and necessary restrictions. Whilst these decisions are certainly the correct ones, and undoubtedly difficult for many race organisers, for many participants, myself included, this has left us with incomplete training plans, disappointment, a loss of motivation and missing that race day feeling. As a result, many have begun turning to virtual events. These give runners, cyclists and triathletes something to work towards, a way to keep busy and a welcome distraction in amongst the ongoing uncertainty. Last week thousands of runners and walkers took part in the Threshold Sports Virtual Race to the Stones, running a half marathon, marathon or 100km over the course of the week. I loved this challenge, and whilst the marathon distance I chose wasn’t that much further than my usual weekly mileage, being part of the virtual event gave me a sense of community and some much needed motivation. It has certainly opened my mind to the world of virtual racing.
If like me, you’re now looking for your next challenge, or perhaps you want to try out a virtual race or virtual running, cycling or triathlon challenge, here are some of the FREE virtual races and challenges available this summer and beyond.
Virtual Running Races, Events and Challenges
Red Bull race to the moon: running the miles together
You’ll have to be quick if you want to join in on this one as it ends on the 18th July, but you’ll be in good company! So far almost 125,000 participants have joined together to run as many miles before the moon completes one orbit. The original 1.5million mile goal has been smashed and you can join runners closing in on the magical 6 million mile mark as well as winning prizes along the way. Join for free on Strava or find out more here.
ASICS London 10k: get that race fix
The ASICS London 10k usually sees thousands of runners taking to the streets of London with a lively atmosphere and party like vibes. With the cancellation of many races ASICS have taken this online, encouraging as many as possible to get involved. Registration is open until 31st July and you can run your 10k at any time (although to be in with a chance of winning any prizes you need to upload your race by the 7 August). Upon completion you will receive a digital goodie bag. Register here before the end of July.
Run Panthera Virtual Half Marathon: uniting female runners
Run Panthera is a Women’s online running community promoting inclusion in running and inspiring women to lace up and experience the mental and physical benefits running brings. At 9:30am GMT On Sunday 2nd August women all over the world will unite to run 13.1miles wherever they are. You can gain all the support you need ahead of race day from their supportive facebook group, you’ll receive a finishers certificate and there is the encouragement to run for charity. This is a fun, friendly and FREE race aiming to support and inspire the global women’s running community. Find out more and sign up here
Running Down Dementia Challenge: Fundraising for a great cause
This is essentially a free challenge to enter, which encourages donations/fundraising. Run, walk or jog as much as you can between 1 April and 31 August, get sponsored to do it and help Alzheimer’s Research UK move one step closer to a life-changing dementia treatment. This is the perfect challenge for anyone who wants to motivate themselves and help make a vital impact to dementia research. Get involved here.
Girls Run the World V Ultra Alps: Run the UTMB distance Virtually
Another one for the Ladies, the Girls Run the World team are inviting you to pre-register to take on the UTMB distance of 106 miles during August. If you fancy racing this one you can do so over the week of the 10 – 16th August and there is a prize for the fastest female in a week. Sign up here.
RNIB Marathon Mates 2020: take on a challenge with a friend and raise money
With many major challenges cancelled this year RNIB are launching marathon mates, the chance to pair up with a pal and take on 26.2 miles through September. You can split/share the distance any way you choose (and obviously you don’t have to run together). The idea being that pairing up and sharing miles replicates the way in which Visually Impaired Runners and Guides share the distance. Pick a marathon mate and head over to the RNIB page to start fundraising now.
(not)parkrun: get your parkrun hit virtually
(not)parkrun gives parkrunners the chance to submit a 5k walk, jog, or run, anytime, anywhere as long as it is safe to do so. It seems similar to the ‘Freedom run’ but with more flexibility on the location. You can record up to one activity per day, and your fastest time each week will be included in the weekly results table. Check out their page for more information and to read the FAQs.
Strava Challenges: Virtual Running, Cycling, Swimming, Walking and so on
From running and walking, to cycling swimming and moving time- Strava has a wide range of challenges that you can take part in for free. These can be done over a variety of timeframes with special Stava badges which you can proudly show off post challenge. Check out the virtual challenges online or via the Strava App.
Virtual Cycling Races and Challenges
UK Wide Cycle Ride hosted by Diabetes UK: a chance to cycle for charity
Free to register but fundraising is strongly encouraged, join Diabetes UK throughout September as you cycle on one 4 UK distance challenges. Ranging from 120 miles, the distance of Fort William to Dundee, up to 950 miles the equivalent of Land’s End to John O’Groats, this offers the perfect motivation to get out on your bike and help make a difference to the fight against diabetes. To join the fun and start your fundraising Register here.
Gran Fondo Challenge Strava: one for the distance lovers
Cycle 100km in one ride during July or August (indoor or out) as part of this epic Strava challenge. Your reward is pride and a shiny new Strava badge to boast about. Sign up here.
Rapha Women’s 100: challenging female riders
The Rapha Women’s 100 unites female riders around the world to come together to take on the challenge of riding 100 kilometres in one go. Usually cycling stores and groups would organise rides covering a range of abilities, however with the ongoing COVID pandemic Rapha are taking this online with riders able to join via Strava. Find out more hereand keep an eye out for the sign up.
Zwift races: they’re not just for cyclists!
Ok so perhaps this isn’t totally free as you need to have a Zwift subscription, but you can participate in Zwift races and group rides via the app. There are races, group rides and events pretty much everyday throughout the day (or you can set up your own). And whilst Zwift is perhaps most commonly associated with cycling there are also running events on there too. Check out the schedule here.
Virtual Triathlon Events and Challenges
Ironman Virtual Club: Ironman VR
Pretty early into the lockdown period Ironman introduced the VR race series. Taking place over a weekend (Friday morning until Sunday evening) you need to log a 3km run, 40km bike and 10km run which for the classic division can be done indoors or outdoors. The best bit of this is you can do it in one go as a run-bike-run or break it down and do the activities over the weekend, which is ideal for those wanting to dabble in multi-sports or juggling other commitments. The race itself is free, but watch out for hidden priced extras. Find out more and view all the challenges here or catch up on my Virtual Ironman Race recap here.
Girls Run the World V Iron Triathlon: for those ladies wanting to take on a longer distance
Complete a full distance Ironman triathlon (without the swim) during August, so that’s Ride 109 miles and run 26.2 miles. Split the distance of both the ride and the run however you like, this can be in one go, over a weekend or split over the entire month, you decide. All information and to sign up to the wide array of Girls Run the World Challenges check out their website.
If bling is more your thing, I will shortly be covering some of the wonderful companies offering virtual races with medals (at a slight cost) so you can still experience that medal Monday high, whilst supporting some of our excellent small races and companies. Stay tuned and thanks for reading
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and if you’re missing real life racing you can catch my Big Half race recap here which was my last race before the lockdown period began.