Fees are typically lower for the virtual race alternative, meaning runners can earn their miles and save money. Such is the case with the Walt Disney World Radio Running Team's Tomorowland Virtual Race, which gives runners an alternative to making the expensive trip to Disney World and Disneyland for their series of half marathons and marathons.
Still, as the popularity of virtual races has grown, so have runner's opinions of it. Many runners say that virtual races simply can't deliver the same race day atmosphere, the community or the camaraderie of races.
But virtual racing advocates have an answer to that, too.
"You are able to keep the community feel because of the online environment," Jackson says. "Kind of the same way that other running groups share stories and feedback on social media, virtual races create this type of community also."
Another Way to Give Back
Like many physical races, virtual races are also committed to donating to charities, and many operate at little or no profit. Races for Awareness, for example, donates at least 80 percent of its net proceeds to various charities.
"We have raised over $89,000 since we started in September 2013," says Joanna Williams, owner and founder of Races for Awareness. "We have over 5,000 participants from all over the world."
Since thousands of runners are trying out virtual races, more and more charities are benefitting. Virtual Strides raised more than $82,000 for charity in 2015, and Will Run for Bling gave more than $50,000 to charities in 2014 and 2015.
"I think people like the idea of participating in a virtual race on their own terms, while supporting a great cause, and receiving some nice bling in the mail to commemorate their accomplishment," Petrillo says.
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