How virtual challenges are keeping me motivated and saving my sanity

Let’s continue the discussion about virtual races we started three months ago with “Do Virtual Races Count?” I still feel my conclusion is accurate, that virtual races should count in whatever way you want them to count, although by July, I had lost interest in them for the most part.

I took the virtual option on four of the 17 races for which I was registered this year. Of the balance, a refund or deferral to 2021 made more sense. I completed three virtual races: the CARA Lakefront 10-miler, Soldier Field 10, and Shelter Island 10k

Solder Field and Shelter Island I had previous run for real several times, so simply covering the miles to justify the shirts and medals seemed fine. I was also able to run the CARA Lakefront 10 miler on the actual Lakefront, although I chose not to run the actual course. Again I justified the shirt and medal. 

When it was time for the Bix 7 this past weekend, I had kind of lost interest, even though I actually wound up running 8.25 miles on Saturday. The Bix 7 is on the streets of Davenport , Iowa. I’ve never been to Iowa. This race was supposed to check off another state for me. When we chose the virtual option many weeks ago, we came up with a plan to drive the three hours to Davenport, run an out and back course along the Mississippi River and drive the three hours home.

It seemed like it would be a nice adventure and fulfill the criteria so I could check off another state – except that we hadn’t really thought it through. We hadn’t immediately considered the heat in the middle of the day, the frustration of probably sharing the path with maskless people passing too closely, and COVID-19 cases increasing so much in Iowa that it put it on Chicago’s “Quarantine List”. So we nixed the Bix. 

I could have run 1.25 miles less on Saturday and submitted my results, but I didn’t feel right about it since I still have never even been to Iowa. Plus there was no medal and the shirt was kind of ugly. Perfect for the donation pile.

I also had generally lost interest in these one-off virtual races once I began the Illinois Endurance Challenge. Back in June Kurt and I signed up to run virtually across the state of Illinois from St. Louis to Chicago along (virtual) Historic Route 66. 

(Virtual) Historic Route 66. Shirley, Illinois

Running single virtual races wasn’t motivating for me. Speed isn’t a goal right now. My goal is building endurance and strength. I’m focusing on being in a much better place when training for actual races resumes. So how does one get motivated to get out there? Challenges! The first I saw was The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee which started May 1 (and goes to August 31). It’s a 1000k (or roughly 620 miles).

I also saw a number in my home state of New Jersey where one could run the distance of the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway.  While those have concluded, Compuscore, organizer of those challenges, is now offering Northeast Corridor Challenges (think DC to Boston), some of which don’t conclude until October.  

(Virtual) Historic Route 66. Towanda, Illinois.

I chose to do Illinois because it’s where I’m living now and I have a lot to learn. When I log in my miles, it shows me where I am on the map. I can then zoom in and use street view to see what it looks like. If I’m feeling overly ambitious, I can look up the history of the town and attractions that might be near by. 

Aside from keeping me motivated to get out there and bike as well as run (most of these challenges allow for biking, walking and swimming miles to add up as well), it’s giving me a sense of getting out of my surroundings which is important for my mental health right now.  Some challenges can be done in teams, so you can enjoy the experience with friends even if you can’t be with them in person right now.

Do a search online to see if your state – or a destination you’d like to explore – is offering a Virtual Challenge. Next up for us is going to be the Ring of Kerry Challenge (124 miles) which will take us to (virtual) Ireland! Can’t wait!

(Virtual) Historic Route 66. Lexington, Illinois.

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