Running in a Virtual Race

There’s a new race in town (actually it’s everywhere).  Virtual racing allows you to race against people from all over the world at your own convenience.  Whether you opt for the treadmill or plot out your own course is up to you.  You can also decide when you want to run: early morning, afternoon, or even night.  The way you compete is pretty simple too:

1.  Register for the race

2.  Map out your own course using or (skip if using dreadmilltreadmill)

3.  Run your Race within the given race period.

4.  Report your race time online.

5.  Watch and wait for other participants to finish.

This can be convenient for those who work more than one job or have kids, but is it right for everyone?  I’ve been invited to participate in several of these simulated races.  I haven’t jumped at the bit just yet, but haven’t written them off either.  Although I can see how this sort of racing may be fun to do from time to time, it certainly takes away from the overall experience of running a real race.
For many runners, racing means a day to look forward to, people to meet, places to see, a mini-vacation, spectators cheering you on.  Virtual racing may take away all of those characteristics but it does add convenience.  It also allows charities the opportunity to raise more money and awareness by virtually hosting more races year round.
Being an IT student, I’m all for advancements in technology.  However, running is one of the ways that I experience nature and distance myself from my computer; it’s the most natural thing that I do all day.  I understand that (in the last decade) companies have leveraged the internet to increase sales and marketing.  This makes me question the motive of these organizations that offer simulated online races.  I don’t believe that they are “all” out for profits, but at the same time, I don’t want to see running becoming a product that people purchase online.  We can all run and we can all donate to charities.  But (real) racing is an experience that can’t be replicated and produces memories that last forever.
What are your thoughts on virtual races?  Have you run a virtual 5k, half marathon, or marathon?  What was your experience like?  Please take the time to let us know.
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