September 30, 2013
The term Virtuality means the quality of having attributes of something without sharing its real or imagined physical form…however in the case of virtual running I think perhaps this is a little misleading, I mean you do have to run ultimately and that is kinda physical…like really!!
Virtual running is not a completely new concept…who remembers Nike’s Human Race events? A series of 10K runs taking place on the same day at major cities across the globe…. ground breaking at the time. I took part in the London one which started at Wembley Stadium on a freezing cold, rainy night. It was started by Paula Radcliff who also then completed the course. She actually overtook me at about mile 3, but it will always be the race where Paula was chasing me. I loved this race…there was something quite cool about connecting to millions of other runners around the world.
The other types of virtual running I’ve been thinking about are a little less inspiring though. Running on the spot around an ever so picturesque island on a Nintendo Wii definitely has its limitations. I once ran on a treadmill at a gym (not my local one) which had these snazzy displays where you could choose your running routes, I spent an hour exploring San Francisco dodging trams, and then a little while climbing mountains in Colorado, but even that became a little tedious.
And then there are of course the hugely successful running communities found on Nike+, MapMyRun, Garmin and the like…I even had an Adidas mii coach at one point which promised to get me marathon ready… don’t ask. But I suppose people find their own ways of motivating themselves, and these platforms do encourage you to get out and run more often, especially if you are a little geeky or competitive. The way technology is driving the health and fitness agenda its no wonder these new fangled running concepts are catching peoples eyes…anything to distract us from actually just putting on our trainers and leaving the house for a run.
But its the type of virtual running I found via Facebook which has really intrigued me. Races (mainly in the states I must add) which are organised completely online with participants signing up on social media, paying for the privilege (often to raise money for charity) and where you receive your medal in the post weeks after the event. Why would people bother though? What’s the point? Why wouldn’t you just enter a proper race? How do organisers know you have completed it? So many questions.
There was only one thing for it. I had to launch my own to find out. So back in August the OneBigFatRun concept was born. I discreetly launched the event on my facebook fan page thinking that perhaps only my fattymustrun marathon challenge girls might take part, but it wasn’t long before we saw just under 100 participants signed up for our first race and the word was spreading like wildfire…there was obviously something in this virtual running thing, something overweight runners were connecting with. Unlike “proper” races, this one didn’t require a huge financial outlay (Its FREE in fact), there were no pre-race logistics to consider, stinky portaloos or the fear of the sweeper van chasing your backside. This was stress free event running it seemed.
Yesterday saw Septembers event take place, and this time we had almost 200 runners signed up, runners from all over the world getting involved. Looking at the event page today I am amazed at how people have bought into this simple idea. How inspiring it is to see families and friendship groups making an effort to exercise together. We had walkers and joggers, hikers and real runners…we even had a few honorary men join in the fun. Check out the photos and race reports from yesterdays runners. My own run took place in Valentines Park in Ilford as part of an organised run my running club were hosting, and it took me 34.31 to get round, a significant improvement from last months run… not bad considering the 8 miles I cycled to the start line.
Reflecting on the success of the first two runs I think I get it now.
I reckon the reason they are so popular, particularly among those of us on a weight-loss journey of sorts is that there is a serious need from would be, wanna be, hope to be runners to feel like they belong, for many overweight runners the official organised races and the training runs of many running clubs is not that place…thats not to say it wont be one day…but for today that place is here, virtually here in amongst the other virtual but still very real participants of this growing running community. We don’t care about times, what kit you are wearing, the make or your shoe, how sweaty you get, the style of your stride, where you run, who you run with…we don’t even care if you stopped for cake or beer half way round. Virtual running is about doing it your way, finding a run which strikes a cord with you somehow and enjoying it for what it is.
The next OneBigFatRun takes place on Sunday 27th October…will you be there…well virtually of course??
Why not sign up now…and remember to tell the rest of the world about it too!!