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GMS Living Well Blog: Virtual Marathons: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Virtual Marathons: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Marathons and running events have been around for a long time – we’re talking all the way back to ancient Greece. They have stood the test of time and still remain popular today, with thousands happening every year around the world.

Physically, it can help you stay fit, sleep better and is great for your overall health. It can also improve your mental health. Training for a marathon or running event can be very rewarding, and gives you something to work towards and focus on, not to mention the boost to your self-confidence when you finish one. Studies have shown that physical activity like running can help with stress and can reduce the symptoms of depression.

Like so many of the things in our lives these days, marathons have gone virtual. We’re going to take a look at what exactly a virtual marathon is and why you should consider trying it out!

What is A Virtual Marathon?
A virtual marathon is just like it sounds. Running a marathon – virtually. Instead of all the participants meeting in one place at a certain time, everyone does the marathon individually at a location of their choosing. It can usually take place on a certain date or over a range of days to accommodate more people.

How Does A Virtual Marathon Work?
How a virtual marathon works is really up to whoever organizes it, but it typically works the same way as a traditional marathon. As a runner, you sign up, pay your fee and choose your distance online. The difference is you can run the marathon at a location that you pick, or even on a treadmill!

Once you complete your marathon, you submit your time and (most of the time) you provide evidence to show your time and distance. This could be in the form of screenshots from a Fitbit or smartphone. Usually, the results must be submitted within a certain time frame.

What are the Benefits of a Virtual Marathon?
The most obvious benefit of a virtual marathon right now is social distancing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual marathons offer a great way for people to be able to still participate without putting their health or the health of others at risk.  People aren’t meeting in one spot, coming within 2M of each other, touching things like water bottles, pens for sign-in, or bumping into other people at the starting line.

Virtual marathons also offer a great way to avoid the headache that comes with some larger events. You don’t have to worry about traffic, finding parking or fitting it into your hectic schedule. Another huge bonus – especially in Canada – is the weather. We know it’s unpredictable so the virtual marathon allows you to plan around that by choosing a specific day to run it.

Virtual marathons can be great for organizers too. If you are organizing an in-person marathon, it can be a big undertaking. You have to map out the race, find volunteers, and get permits to shut down streets. Beyond just the race itself, you may have to think about things like entertainment, food or a final wrap-up event. With a virtual marathon, those issues don’t come up.

Finally, virtual marathons can give back to the community! Just like with traditional marathons, virtual marathons also allow for money to be raised for charities or community organizations online. As virtual marathons grow, so do the opportunities for charities to benefit from them.

Virtual Marathon Tips

Train
Just like with a regular marathon, you need to train for your virtual marathon. And you can go virtual with your training routine as well. There are lots of apps that can help you train for different lengths of marathons and can track everything from calorie intake to the miles you’ve run.

Expectations
Whether it’s your very first marathon or you’re an experienced runner, you need to be honest about your expectations for the big day. This is especially true with a virtual marathon because you won’t have a crowd or other participants to keep you going. Pay attention to your body and don’t overshoot how much you can take on.

Tech-Ready
Make sure you have something that can help you track your running. It may be a requirement for your virtual marathon so your stats can be tracked, but beyond that, it’s a great way to measure your health. Just like with training, there are lots of apps that help track your running.

Social Media
Share your marathon on social media! Your friends and family won’t be able to attend an actual marathon or see you cross the finish line, so this is a great way to keep them involved. It’s also a great motivator. If you’re posting your training leading up to the event it’s an extra little push to make sure you follow through with it.

Virtual marathons have been gaining popularity, but with social distancing measures in place they have become even more popular. We hope this blog gave you the info and motivation to continue running marathons, organizing a virtual marathon, or to try one out on your own for the first time!

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