We live in a world that’s becoming progressively more technologically advanced, and virtual running challenges form part of that huge leap forward. They’re easily accessible, always connected, and often just tick away in your pocket or on your wrist.
But what are they, and how can you get involved if you don’t know the first thing about them?
Well, OriGym’s comprehensive guide hopes to answer all the questions you might have about virtual running challenges, whether that’s how you can get involved, what you need to do to get started, or even what a virtual running event is.
We’ve selected our favourite virtual running challenges, and with such a wide variety, there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone!
- What Is A Virtual Run?
- How Do Virtual Runs Work?
- What Are The Best Virtual Running Races?
- How Much Does It Cost To Enter A Virtual Run?
- What Do I Need For My Virtual Race Challenge?
- Can I Do My Virtual Run With Others?
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What Is A Virtual Run?
The likelihood is, if you’ve clicked on this article, you’ve got some familiarity with the idea of virtual running challenges. But, as this article will be discussing the best virtual running experiences, we thought it best to first define what we mean.
A virtual run is, as you might expect, a run that isn’t completed in person, or at a specific location or time. Many of the virtual runs we’ll be looking at actually have no timeframe for their completion, meaning they’re much more flexible than more traditional marathons or non-virtual running events.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re any less impactful - these virtual running races (UK and beyond) are often just as intense as any marathon or 10k run. We’d advise making sure you’ve got all the best running gear if this is your first experience with running.
As we’ll get on to, there are lots of options for virtual run events (UK and worldwide), but how exactly do virtual running races work?
How Do Virtual Runs Work?
Organisers have designed virtual running events to be easily accessible, customisable, and open to any and all fitness levels and abilities.
They allow you to pick the running challenge yourself, and complete it whenever and wherever is convenient for you. Whether that’s doing laps of your local park, or jogging on a treadmill, you’ll simply need to run the distance you’ve signed up for to receive your reward.
One important thing to remember, though, is that you'll need to track your run, which is usually done through an app on your phone, through your data tracked on your smart watch (OriGym’s thorough report on the best running watches explores this capability in more detail).
This evidence of your virtual run will then allow you to claim your reward. Some offer a well-deserved medal, others a certificate, and a few will even send out a commemorative t-shirt.
Like regular running events, virtual run challenges allow you to choose from varying distances, including 5K and 10k races or even a half marathon challenge.
What Are The Best Virtual Running Races?
Price: £20 per run (regardless of distance)
Distance: Between 50 and 200 miles
RunThrough’s Virtual Monthly Mileage event is one of the flagship virtual running events, and for good reason.
You can choose your monthly mileage target, with the targets ranging between 50 and 200 miles, without affecting the price tag. While that may seem a huge distance, it’s important to remember that you have a whole month to complete your huge virtual running challenge - meaning 200 miles is only around a 7 mile run per day!
When you first opt for RunThrough as your virtual running challenge provider, you’ll be prompted to sign up, and track your runs over 30 days. As you complete your run each day, you’ll send over your statistics to the race organisers, and they’ll tally up how far you’ve run over the course of the month.
And just for completing the virtual run, you’ll be awarded a unique RunThrough Virtual medal, along with a motivational postcard, a race number, and some post-run goodies! Couple those with a pick from our list of the best running accessories to take your running to the next level!
Organiser: GSi events
Price: £15 to £30, depending on distance
Date: 28-29th May 2022
Distance: Between 1.5k and 42km (26.2 miles)
Join in with one of the biggest virtual running challenges in the UK and challenge yourself!
One of the most impressive parts of this virtual running event is that you can choose from multiple distances, starting from 5km up to a full marathon (26.2 miles or 42km)! This customisable challenge extends to the younger generation of virtual runners, too, with virtual running challenges for kids available up to 10km.
Upon registering, the organisers will send out your Edinburgh Marathon number, as well as providing you with plenty of virtual resources so you can have the best possible experience.
After you make the decision to go for this UK virtual running challenge, you’ll be prompted to sign up for an account, which is where you’ll register your completion time. You can complete your challenge in one day or over multiple days, with the event spanning 2 days at the end of May.
It’s also a virtual marathon with a charitable side, too - you can sign up to run for charity and make a huge difference by raising money. After finishing your selected race, you will be awarded a run medal, race t-shirt, and many other virtual goodies to keep you motivated!
This marathon (and its virtual counterpart, too) are a huge part of running history - we’ve handpicked a selection of our best running books that discuss the event’s impact and how its shaped modern running.
Organiser: Ace Races
For anyone looking for a harsher, more challenging virtual run, the “Amazon Ultra” is arguably among the best virtual running challenges.
It replicates the trail from the city of Manaus in Brazil, directly through the Amazon Rainforest, finishing at Novo-Aripuana on the opposite side of the dense jungle. This is perhaps one of the more subtle benefits of virtual running races - they offer you the opportunity to run in places you may never have the chance to visit!
However, there is a sense of urgency with this virtual run - the challenge needs to be completed in 30 days from the day you sign up.
You can complete the race either out in the fresh air, or go for a virtual treadmill run if you’re not a fan of the outdoors. You could even use a rower in the gym, or cycle! Just make sure to adhere to all the rules and regulations with OriGym’s ultimate guide to gym etiquette.
Not only is this virtual running event great for your fitness goals, but this challenge also supports The Rainforest Trust UK in their quest to protect the most threatened tropical rainforests, saving endangered species through partnerships and community engagement.
Your entry donates £2.50 to their chosen charity, which conserves a whole acre of rainforest through the Conservation Action Fund. Once your results are verified, the company does send your medal. You are participating for a good cause, getting fit, and receiving an award. These are just a few benefits you get upon participation!
Organiser: Pacer Virtual Adventure Challenges
Distance: 24 miles (40km)
MyPacer offer a wide variety of virtual running challenges, but our personal favourite would have to be the idyllic Mount Fuji virtual run.
This particular virtual run puts you at the base of beautiful Mount Fuji in the province of Honshu, Japan, and charts your progress up the spiralling giant.
MyPacer not only provides the virtual running challenge, but at certain milestones along the way, you’ll receive beautiful photographs of the landscape you’re traversing, ranging from the banks of Lake Kawaguchi to the ice caves of Narusawa.
Not only that, but this one of very few virtual running challenges that allows you to compete against friends and family. The MyPacer app tracks your progress in real time (whether that’s a quick walk to the shops, or your usual evening run), and ranks you all on a leaderboard.
This extra element of competition is not the only thing this virtual running event offers - you’ll receive a high-quality medal to prove you’ve conquered this mountainous challenge, as well as a virtual medal on your MyPacer profile.
Organiser: Virtual Racing UK
As everything is starting to get back to normal, you might be thinking about exercising with friends so this virtual running challenge (UK) could be right for you!
This Running Buddies virtual running race is aimed at getting you and a friend exercising together, with the 5k being a reasonable distance for even the newest of running pairs.
Entry into this virtual running challenge is slightly different to others you might be used to; whilst there is an ongoing enrollment date, you have a full 6 months to complete the challenge, which is perfect if you’re struggling to coordinate your schedules.
Proof that you’ve completed the challenge comes in the form of 2 stylish and matching virtual run medals and 2 badges (one each for you and your friend, which is all covered in the entry fee).
So why not give this virtual running challenge a go and finally figure out who is the chatty one, and who is the fast one?
Date: 1st August - 30th December Entry
Distance: 3/10/50/100/250 Miles
If you’re keen on fun and interesting themed virtual run challenges, then My Magical Miles is certainly worth a look!
MedalMad offers some of the more eclectic themed virtual running events, from magic to Alice in Wonderland to the Queen’s Jubilee so we’re confident they’ll be a virtual running challenge to get you excited.
Once you’ve chosen your virtual run you’re encouraged to download the MedalMad app to track and report your progress. Through this you also get access to a virtual running race profile and rewards points to encourage you to keep going.
Alongside their beautiful virtual run medal, upon completion of this race you’ll also get a ‘Congratulations’ card, 4 virtual milestones cards, a profile badge and more!
Through the app you’ll also have access to the community pages, where you’ll be able to find running tips, help and motivation, whilst also sharing your progress with a like minded set of people.
This virtual running event (UK) is multi-distance so you can choose what works the best for you. You have 60 days to complete several distances between 3 and 250 miles, so there’s plenty of time for you to achieve your goals.
Organiser: The Conqueror
Price: £24.95 (entry & medal) or £49.95 (entry, medal & exclusive tshirt)
Distance: 40 miles (64km)
Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of any virtual running challenge is the opportunity to explore parts of the world that you may never have had the opportunity to before. That is most definitely true of the Mount Everest Virtual Running Challenge from The Conqueror.
You’ll be tasked with completing the 40 miles that charts the climb up the tallest mountain as part of one of the biggest virtual running challenges, but don’t panic - you’ll not be expected to climb the colossal peak!
Each step of forward movement - whether that’s walking, running, swimming, or cycling - counts towards your ascent of the towering summit. And you can customise your own timeframe for completion, too, meaning your goals are totally achievable and within your own fitness capabilities. Not only that, but you’ll also be improving your psychological health, too - OriGym’s report on the mental health benefits of running delves deeper into just how it boosts our brains.
This incredible challenge wouldn’t be complete without photographs from the area, and this is where The Conqueror excels - you’ll not only see your custom avatar on the map of Everest so you can track your progress in real time, but you’ll also receive postcards from along the way, beautifully depicting key locations from your route.
Not to mention that, as you reach certain milestones on your journey, The Conqueror will donate towards planting a tree, so you’re doing your part for the planet as well as completing one of our favourite virtual running challenges!
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Organiser: Virtual Racing UK
You might already be aware of the Couch to 5k scheme, designed by the NHS and the UK government to get more people involved in outdoor exercise and general fitness. But did you know that you can earn a medal for that NHS virtual run?
Virtual Racing UK offers a medal to anyone who’s found the motivation to complete the NHS virtual running challenge, and for good reason! The 9 week training program can often be difficult, but with Virtual Racing UK’s scheme, you’ll receive a medal to commemorate your challenge completion too.
The idea is simple - you’ll sign up for the challenge when you first download the NHS Couch to 5k app, and then you’ll have 6 months to complete the final 5km run, before submitting your time and proof of your completion to Virtual Racing UK. This virtual running challenge is as easy as that!
Not only that, but this entry fee is among the cheapest on our list of the best virtual running challenges, so if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, then this could be the virtual running race for you! Plus, with all the money saved, you can grab yourself a shirt from OriGym’s report on the best running tops!
Organiser: Race the Distance
Distance: 1725 Miles
If you’re looking for a virtual running event to really test your fitness, have you considered a virtual trek across the Amazon?
This virtual running race is purely against yourself as you work through the huge 1725 miles this challenge involves. There is no time limit on this challenge, so you can set your own goals and milestones until you achieve the full distance.
Submitting your results is super easy too as a separate link is sent to connect you with your own event hub when you sign up for you, so you can upload your progress as and when you need.
This can be done through Strava or manually, depending on your choice of activity. Your virtual run medal is automatically sent out once you’ve crossed the finish line, so there’s no need to complete any extra forms to get the reward for all your hard work.
You’re not limited to the treadmill for this virtual run as Race the Distance accepts miles from running, cycling, swimming, wheelchair or any combination of these to hit your targets.
Organiser: Virtual Runner UK
Date: 1st January - 31st December
Each year certainly brings around new challenges so why not theme your fitness goals around 2022 with this 2,022km virtual running event from Virtual Runner UK.
This is different to other monthly or more specific virtual running events (UK) because you have the whole year to enter and complete the distance, so you have plenty of time to set your and reach your goals.
Although you have to submit your evidence by noon on the 3rd January so be mindful of when you start in order to make sure you have enough time to complete the challenge.
Like the majority of virtual running races, this one requires you to complete the challenge in the same discipline, so you’ll need to walk, run, cycle or swim the full 2,022km.
Submitting your evidence is really easy, and you can use a variety of tracking apps or screenshots to monitor your progress.
Once you’ve submitted your evidence your virtual run medal will be sent out within 5 working days so it’s quick and easy to receive your reward and show it off!
For those of you interested in virtual running challenges for charity, each race on Virtual Runner UK donates 20-30% of proceeds to various charities depending on the theme of the challenge.
Enjoying this article so far? Here’s 3 more we think you might find useful:
Organiser: Paw Runner
Distance: 100 miles (161 km)
Looking to complete virtual running challenges in 2022 with your four-legged friends? Look no further than Paw Runner’s virtual running events!
The event we’ve picked out is their 100 mile challenge, as we feel that best encapsulates what they’re aiming to achieve with their virtual running challenges.
But, if you feel as though that’s too much, or perhaps not enough, for you and your furry companion, then they have options that range from 10 miles up to 200 miles in a month! And with such high distances, you’ll definitely need the right footwear - OriGym’s comprehensive guide to the best long-distance & marathon running shoes has all the sturdy shoes you’ll ever need!
This flexibility sets Paw Runner apart, we feel - their wide array of virtual running challenges means there’s something to suit all fitness levels and abilities (both human and canine).
Not to mention you’ll also receive a customised dog bandana for entering and completing one of their virtual running challenges, meaning you can accessorise your running buddy with only the best.
Paw Runner’s mission is noble, too - they charge a small price to ensure that everyone (and every dog) can be involved, and feel as though they’ve accomplished something, as well as promoting overall good health and fitness.
Price: £28 (UK) £35 (International)
Date: 2nd October 2022
Distance: 26.2 miles
Completing a marathon is a serious achievement and one of the harder virtual running challenges around because of the time limit. However they may be geographically easier depending on which marathon you want to enter.
For example this London Marathon virtual running challenge with TCS makes it a lot easier to join in and compete in this event if you live far away from London itself.
This virtual running race is open to UK and international entrants alike, so everyone can participate in one of the most famous marathon races in the world.
There are lots of advantages to choosing to complete the London Marathon as a virtual running challenge, aside from the obvious savings on travel.
A virtual run can be done in your own time, so you can take all day to complete your marathon, or you can do it in stages, at home or with friends - as long as you complete the distance on the 2nd October you have a lot of freedom in how you compete.
Competing through TCS means you’ll still get all of the race goodies you would on the day. Before the race you’ll receive a vest number to wear whilst you run, and you’ll be sent your finishers medal and t-shirt in the post.
Just like the in-person event, the London Marathon virtual running challenge is for charity so you can feel good knowing you’re also doing good!
Organiser: World’s Marathons
Date: 7-9th October 2022
Distance: Between 5k and full marathon (26.2 miles/42km)
Another of our virtual running challenges (UK) is the Bridges of London virtual run. This scenic virtual running race takes in the multitude of beautiful bridges that cross over the Thames and zigzag across the UK’s capital.
Organised by one of the most recognised and respected authorities in marathon organisation, this virtual run is a beacon of quality when it comes to virtual running challenges for 2022.
Customisability is key here - you can choose your distance, with options as low as 5k all the way up to a full marathon of over 40km!
Their online community provides constant support and guidance, too, on everything from tips for training and getting started, to choices for the best cushioned running shoes.
But where this particular virtual running race really excels is its price point and what you get for completion - a high-quality tshirt, plus a bespoke Bridges of London medal for completion, regardless of the distance you choose to run.
With all that, plus the reassurance that you’re in great hands with World’s Marathons, this is definitely among the best choices for virtual running challenges.
Organiser: The National Autistic Society
Date: 1st May - 31st December
Distance: 5k/10k/Half Marathon/Marathon
For more specific virtual running challenges for charity it’s worth checking their own websites, as some charities hold their own virtual runs - like the National Autistic Society.
With these virtual running events you’re working more directly with the charity, and have more control over the distance you’re running.
This is a great way to get into virtual runs if you’re a beginner and not quite ready for a marathon because you can choose from 5k and 10k upwards. As you get better you could run multiple times, and increase your distance as you do.
Working on a more individual level directly through the website means you could even organise your own virtual running event (UK) and encourage others to get involved.
Entry is super easy - simply register your distance, set up your Just Giving page and you’re ready to go. Once you’ve submitted your progress and completed your challenge you’ll get a virtual run medal and certificate for all of your hard work and fundraising.
This is one of the best virtual running challenges for beginners because you’re more in control of your distance and progress - and even better it’s for charity!
Organiser: The Running Bug
Date: 4th May 2022
Distance: 4 miles (6.4km)
Whether you’re a Sky-walker or runner, the next entry on our list of the best virtual running challenges for 2022 is sure to satisfy both Jedi and Sith alike!
The idea behind this Star Wars-themed virtual running race is simple - move 4 miles on the 4th May, or what some have come to affectionately refer to as an unofficial Star Wars Day.
Whether that’s running, jogging, walking, or simply strolling around your local park, all it takes is a free tracking app on your phone (such as Strava or MapMyWalk) and submitting your data via Running Bug’s website.
And that’s all it takes! After that, you’ll receive a personalised certificate via email, as well as a unique medal to commemorate not only your achievement, but the day itself, so it’ll no doubt be out of this world!
Furthermore, Running Bug have already advanced with technology, setting up their own Strava group that you’ll be invited to join as soon as you sign up for one of their vast range of virtual running events.
#16 - Run London Virtual
Organiser: Virtual Marathon Series
Price: £25 - £35
Distance: 26.2 miles (42km)
Always fancied completing the London marathon, but never in time to get a ticket? Run London Virtual offers an identical experience, for a fraction of the cost, and all year round, too! Just make sure you’re wrapped up in your winter running gear if you’re planning your run in December!
Of all the virtual running challenges we’ve looked at so far, this is arguably one of the more flexible ones, in that it offers multiple different ways to complete the full marathon distance.
You can choose to complete your 42km all at once, or spread it over the course of a month, meaning you’d only need to run around 1.5km per day! Or you can even enter as a team, and split the virtual run distance between up to 25 team members.
This monumental run isn’t without its prizes, though, and this is perhaps where this virtual running event goes above and beyond. With hotly contested leaderboards, the organisers sought to capitalise on that, and now the Top 5 competitors receive prizes through their exclusive partner RunThrough.
Organiser: Virtual Racing UK
Date: 1st May - 31st May
Distance: 10 Miles/10km
During the pandemic NHS virtual runs became more popular as a way to show support for NHS medical and support staff as they worked tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy.
As we move on from this time you can still show your support through virtual running challenges, like this one from Virtual Racing UK in honour of International Nurses Day.
International Nurses Day is on the 12th May, so for this challenge you have the whole month of May to register and complete 10km or miles to earn your virtual run medal.
You have the choice of running, walking, cycling or swimming for this virtual (running) event, and can do it in one session or over multiple depending on your level of fitness and personal training goals.
You have until the 4th of June to submit your evidence, so there’s plenty of time for you to complete this virtual running race and have your medal posted out.
Whilst the recipient is yet to be decided at this time, it’s worth knowing that this virtual run (UK) will donate £2 to a nominated charity - so you’re supporting a good cause whilst you’re exercising.
Organiser: End to End
Date: Ongoing 2022
Distance: 500 Miles
In honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year (which celebrates her 70th year on the throne), why not try this virtual running event organised by End to End?
In this virtual running event you’re challenged to run 500 miles on a route which ‘visits’ 5 of the royal residences in the UK. With the virtual map you can even track your progress across the country as you upload new evidence.
Along the way you’ll also unlock postcards to new landmarks, which are well researched and interesting to keep you motivated on your journey.
At the end of your event you’ll receive a stylish virtual run medal, but this isn’t the only benefit of choosing this to complete this virtual run.
End to End will plant a tree at 20% intervals of your virtual running race, resulting in 4 new trees by the time you hit the finish line.
In addition to environmental improvements, at 50% of the way through your race End to End will donate a meal to someone in need through their charity partners. So all you need to do to help the environment and other people is to keep going!
Organiser: Race at your Pace
Distance: 5-300 Miles
Lastly for our list of the best virtual running challenges are the monthly entries from Race at your Pace, which change each month and are supremely adaptable to your own schedule and fitness level.
For each race you can choose several distances between 5 and 300 miles, so there’s loads of room for progression as you get fitter and more confident on your exercise journey.
Remember you also have the whole month to complete the challenge, so you can set realistic targets to achieve your overall goals each time - and the longer distances suddenly don’t feel too scary!
All of your progress can be uploaded through the app in stages, or all at once at the end of the month depending on your preference. Once you’ve done so, simply wait for your medal to be posted to you after each challenge.
Each month offers you a unique and beautiful virtual run medal which can be personalised with your completed distance, so you can keep track of your progress every time you enter.
Race at your Pace has also made it really easy and accessible to enter their virtual running challenges. Each time you have the choice of completing your distance through walking, running, swimming, cycling or wheelchair so everyone can join in.
You could even open a kids account, so why not get the whole family involved in these virtual running events (UK)!
How Much Does It Cost To Enter A Virtual Run?
Now, as we’ve already explored, this can vary. Some are completely free (such as the Fly 5k), but others can cost as much as £36, and of course, it’s all dependent on the rewards you get from your virtual running challenges.
If you simply want a challenge and leaderboards, then it might be worth going for a virtual run that doesn’t have an entry fee. But, if you’re the sort of person who wants a medal or certificate as recognition of your accomplishments, it’s best to go for a virtual running event that offers that.
Our comprehensive list above has information about pricing, distances, and exactly what you’ll receive upon completing your virtual running challenges.
Some virtual running events also vary their pricing depending on the distance you’re running, too. We’d recommend checking out their website and choosing the option that’s not only right for your fitness level, but also for your budget.
What Do I Need For My Virtual Race Challenge?
To start with, your registration for the event is essential. The vast majority of the virtual running challenges we’ve looked at have a sign up page, or a dedicated portal on another website that allows you to book your spot.
Certain virtual runs (specifically the London marathon virtual running challenge) may also book up very quickly, and either not allow you to enter, or only allow you to represent charity as opposed to being a solo runner.
Regardless of which virtual running race you’re planning to enter, we’d recommend booking quickly to avoid disappointment!
Also, it’s important to remember you’ll still be completing rigorous cardiovascular exercise, so you will need to remember everything you’d normally have for exercise - a bottle of water (we’ve compiled a comprehensive report on the best running water bottles), comfortable clothes, sturdy trainers, and a set of headphones would be our recommendation.
For the vast majority of these virtual running challenges, you’ll also need your smartphone with a running tracker app (such as Strava) to ensure you collect all your data to submit as part of your run.
It’s also important to be aware of any other, more specific prerequisites - Paw Runner, for instance, will ask you to run with your dog, and awards you with a bandana for your furry friend!
Can I Do My Virtual Run With Others?
You absolutely can, and honestly, we’d recommend doing so!
In some virtual running events, you can join an existing team by receiving a unique code created by another person. This is perhaps one of the biggest advantages of virtual running challenges, the ability to compete with friends and family, regardless of where in the world they are.
This leaderboard extends to other virtual running challenges, too, particularly those who explore real-world locations through photographs and postcards (the MyPacer Mount Fuji Challenge, for instance), as it allows you to track and see your friends’ progress in real time, and compete against each other.
Having this extra element of competition can be a great motivator, too, spurring you on to achieve more and push onwards to that extra mile or kilometre to meet your next milestone. OriGym’s thorough research into the benefits of group exercise explores this phenomenon in greater detail.
Before You Go!
We hope our guide to best virtual running challenges has given you some insight into what’s right for you. There’s so much flexibility and choice when it comes to completing a virtual run that we’re certain there’s an event out there for you.
Fitness is an integral part of what we do here at OriGym, and part of that is finding the right exercise for people of all fitness levels and abilities.
But if you feel as though you’re already at the peak of your fitness game, then perhaps a career as a personal trainer might be your next step.
OriGym’s REPS and CIMSPA certified personal training courses offer unparalleled flexibility and support for you and your newfound fitness career.
Sound interesting? Download our FREE comprehensive prospectus, and read more about what we offer, plus how it could be right for you.
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
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