There's not much that can beat a group long run or a sweaty post-race high five, but if you're running solo for whatever reason, there are still ways to foster community and connection online.
By now most of us know the ins and outs of virtual racing, but if you're looking for more collaboration, consider a virtual relay. Some organizations are offering specific virtual relay events, but if the logistics don't work for you, create your own!
Once you've figured out the who, what and where of your virtual relay, it's time to get creative. Tag teammates via a quick video call or text if you're running the relay live, or simply run at your own convenience and then tally up all the stats after a predetermined amount of time (e.g. 24 to 48 hours).
If competition isn't your thing, there are plenty of non-race challenges you can join. Some runners are tackling distances (e.g. run 100 miles in a month) or metrics such as elevation or specific hills. Tallying up miles for charity can be another great motivator. Many runners use apps such as Charity Miles to track miles and raise money. How does it work? Usually, corporate sponsors give a small amount for every mile tracked, but you can have friends or family sponsor you to make a bigger impact!
Some running groups are known for their in-person workouts (or post-run beers), but plenty of online options for camaraderie now exist. Ask if your local running group has a Facebook group, Slack channel or online forum—while they'll never replace a good running buddy, they can be a good way to seek advice, ask question or just nerd out over the sport.
If you're an avid social media user, check out Instagram's hashtags for like-minded runners. Pro tip: try searching for your own specific niche, such as #HalfMarathonTraining #Couchto5K or #MotherRunner.
The Strava app is another hugely popular social media option for runners and cyclists. The app logs distance/pace metrics for an array of activities and also syncs with third-party apps like Garmin and Peloton. Runners can join challenges (i.e. June 5K, 200km of running in a month, etc.) and compete against other athletes on specific route segments. Who doesn't want bragging rights for their local hill? Users can also give their friends "kudos" on activities. Thinking about skipping your morning jaunt? The accountability of a social activity feed like Strava might give you that much needed push.
There's an App (or a Treadmill) for That
Looking to simulate a "live" running experience? There are options for that, too. Gone are the days of sneakily peeking at your treadmill neighbor's speed. With apps and smart treadmills, you can really get your competition on.
Zwift is an app that allows runners and cyclists to train together in a virtual world, no matter where they're located. Users are represented by a customizable avatar and can join group runs, speed workouts and special themed events.
The wildly popular Peloton app (along with the brand's signature treadmills and bikes) allows users to join live or on-demand running classes with world-class instructors. Compete against others through the leaderboard feature or simply use the classes as a way of pushing yourself. Give friends (and strangers) high fives or join a buddy at a live class for extra accountability.
Tech developments over the past decade have made it easier than ever for runners to connect online, so whether you're looking for competition, accountability or fun, we bet there's a digital option available. Happy running!
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