Virtual Run, Walk and Roll Events, A Great Way to Stay Active and Connected!

woman running and using a fitness tracker

The year 2020 has been a challenge for all of us. Schools, colleges, universities and businesses went virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Commercial health clubs, corporate wellness programs, community-based fitness programs and medical fitness centers have closed their doors in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But those dedicated to fitness have found ways to stay healthy and continue their exercise programs. Now that the winter holidays are upon us, let’s be creative to stay active together! Challenging your friends and family to participate in virtual fitness events is a great way to stay in shape and encourage some healthy competitive spirit!

Bill Thorn holds 2020 Peachtree Road Race shirtEvery year since 1970, a small gathering of 60,000+ runners (the + is because registration is limited but there always were runners without numbers) would gather in Atlanta on July 4th for a 10K run and wheelchair race called the Peachtree Road Race. There is no hotter or more humid place on the planet Earth than Atlanta on Independence Day, but we gathered there anyway all bunched up together and ready to do our best (or just run for the fun of it). We would run, walk and roll shoulder-to-shoulder, hot, sweaty and most of us breathing very heavily. Exactly the right environment for the viral spread of the coronavirus! This year the Atlanta Track Club, in their wisdom (and probably because they wanted to give away all those 2020 race T-shirts), created a completely virtual event allowing for participation from around the world.

Peachtree Road Race cancelled? NEVER! Just different this year.

How do virtual races or fitness events work? If you are in an organized virtual race or event, you pay an entry fee, use an app or fitness tracker to clock your distance and time and submit your results to the organizers. Easy as that!  Most of the time the entry fee often includes a finisher’s t-shirt, a race number and “other swag.” Many of these events also benefit local or national charities.

We understand that paying for a virtual race may not be in your budget or your immediate interest. How about a virtual race with family and friends? These are not difficult to organize and are lots of fun. Using the iPhone feature “Facetime” during the run is a fun way to stay connected and get the whole family involved. If you are like our families, we are all over the place including multiple states and hundreds of miles apart. Staying connected and providing support really helps. We also have a wide range of ages and levels of fitness so for more competitive of us, a full out 10K (or similar distance) is fun or for the less fit and younger kids a walk of a designated distance might work. In case a time and place cannot be arranged, but you are still competitive, any of the fitness trackers will work. Keep up with your time (or distance or whatever you agree on to be measured) and compare later. The family member with the best time wins (or at least has family bragging rights until the next competition).

Want a little assistance with virtual fitness events? Check out the following resources:

This holiday season make time for family, friends, and fitness even if it’s just playing outside, walking the dog together, or a virtual fitness event. For those of you participating in the virtual Peachtree Road Race or any other virtual fitness event, good luck out there!

Authors: Walter Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, Georgia State University and Jammie Hopkins, DrPH, Morehouse School of Medicine

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