There is something about lacing up some runners and hitting the streets for a run. For many it can be a grounding experience and passing another runner out on the road or trail can be a reminder that you are part of a running community. But it is probably less common to associate pounding the pavement with a thriving virtual running community.
We already know that social media is amazing at connecting like-minded people online, runners included, but have you heard of virtual running groups and virtual running events?
Want to get involved? Here’s how!
Online running groups
Online running groups, like Running Mums Australia and Running Divas, can be a great way to chat and connect with people who love running as much as you do; whether you’re a little shy to join a physical group or you live in a rural location. The 12WBT Runners Connect group started nearly 18 months ago to support and encourage new runners that had taken up running as part of the 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT) program. The free Facebook group now has over 1000 members and is consistently growing.
Administrator Karen Mathie said it included runners who were just starting out as well as members who have run marathons, half-marathons, triathlons and ultra-marathons.
“The group is now very much about support for new runners and an ongoing inspiration and conversation about all things running as well as weight loss,” she said.
Members posts can include daily updates of member’s workouts, race recaps, questions and requests for advice on all things running.
As the group has grown, it has also moved ‘offline’ with members organising meet-up’s at big running events around Australia.
“They are always lots of fun! People are met with hugs and laughter, and even though we have never met, we have so much to say and the friendship and support is instant.”
Member Carol Gilmore said the 12WBT Runner Connect group has become a ‘wonderful’ running community that has kept her motivated when she might have otherwise given it up. She also has no hesitation in signing up for a running event because a 12WBT Runners Connect member will likely have signed up too.
“I have no qualms about entering an event not knowing anyone one because more than likely there’ll be someone from this group there to say hi to. We all keep popping up time and time again at various events and it just feels natural, these women (and men) who intermingle into this part of our lives.”
“I run because I can, I run because I want to and I run because of the community in which I’ve found myself.” – Carol Gilmore
Just have a look in the app store or google ‘online run tracking’ and you will be inundated with options on how to track your runs online. But what about tracking your own virtual run or walk around the country?
Run Down Under (RDU) is just that! Members can track their progress as they cover the kilometres to pass through 95 towns in Australia. It is a yearly membership which you can keep renewing until you have completed all the kilometres in the virtual journey.
Travis Ireland started RDU in January 2014 on an excel spreadsheet and launched a website in July 2014 when membership surpassed expectations – nearly 700 members! These days they have a new website, app, more than 2200 members and affiliate programs in Europe and the USA.
“The idea was born from a personal requirement to connect to runners and walkers from around Australia, as I prepared for my first ever marathon in 2014. I was new to distance running and wanted to be motivated, inspired and accountable to others as I prepared for my first marathon,” Travis said.
“I was also looking for a way to track my progress and stay motivated for the months leading up to this marathon, and thought it would be a unique way to see how far I can run and how this equated to running around Australia.”
Travis said the community that has developed from RDU continues to blow him away.
“I love our community.” – Travis Ireland
“We all support each other and encourage each other from places all over Australia. We have regular competitions, regular engagement and active social media presence. I personally attend many events each year to meet members, and encourage other members to meet each other… physically and via our social media platforms.”
Most runners can tell you the thrill of lining up on race day with hundreds or thousands other runners. But for people who live rurally or lack confidence running in a large group, virtual races could be a great option.
Wings for Life World Run runs an annual event simultaneously all around the world but if you don’t live near a registered run, you can use the Wings for Life World Run app and run wherever you are at the same time as the other registered runners.
Katherine Anderson is an avid ‘virtual runner’ having completed online runs for herself and to raise money for charities.
“I have completed a full year of events with Hogwarts Run Club, three events with Whovian Run Club, 100km in a month for Indigenous Marathon project for two years and some events with Oz Virtual Racing,” she said.
It’s simple: you register online for the specified distance or time frame and once you have completed the run, you can share your successes with the other runners online and wait for your medal to arrive via post.
“A few things attracted me to virtual runs. A chance to connect with like minded people, opportunities to fundraise for charity, the ability to complete my event in my own time and combining ‘geeky’ interests with running.”
It seems the running community will continue to come up with new and innovative ways to run – on land and online.