4 digital races to get involved with

The RunSocial app in action.

London in 3D

On 24th April 2016, astronaut Tim Peake ran the Virgin Money London Marathon on the International Space Station, using VMLM’s new digital download of its famous course. And runners all over the world can enjoy the race experience, too: sign up via the RunSocial app (currently Apple IoS only), download the course (which is divided into six stages) and get running on a treadmill with your iPad or iPhone in front of you. The route was filmed during the 2013 and 2014 events, so the streets are lined with people, and the speed at which the route ‘moves’ is linked to the speed at which you are running. You’ll pass – or be passed by – other digital runners. It’s a great way to recce the route if you’re planning to run the ‘live’ event.

A wizard idea

Harry Potter’s Hogwarts adventures may have come to an end, but at Hogwarts Running Club the wizardry lives on, with themed races (such as the Platform 9¾K), medals and the chance to win the annual House Cup. Events typically draw 4,500-6,000 participants from up to 35 countries – entrants pay US $25 to register and can download a customised bib. ‘Virtual racing is a growing trend,’ says club founder and ‘headmaster’ Brian Biggs. ‘Some new runners are intimidated by the idea of a ‘live’ event because they think they’re too slow. Other entrants want to help the charities we support and the ‘bling junkies’ just want our Harry Potter-themed medals.’

Run the world

UNICEF’s Connected World Run in November 2015 saw over 6,000 runners in 57 countries sign up to take part in a 10K on a single day by connecting their GPS device or app to their race account so that their progress could be tracked live. Runners could head out at any time from midnight to midnight and run wherever they wanted. The winning time was 38:32, but runners could also top the podium for their fundraising efforts in the lead-up to the race or for the highest number of miles logged in training. The event helped UNICEF collect over €95,000 to help disadvantaged children around the world.

Online races

Every month, thousands of runners take part in races that exist only in virtual reality. Sign up, run at your own convenience and submit your finish time to the organisers to claim your medal: no travel, toilet queues or start-line jostling. There’s no race-day buzz, either, but a virtual race can boost motivation. ‘We saw a gap in the market for people who either can’t travel to races, are training for their first race or looking for a stop-gap between races,’ says Chris Cairns from VirtuaRace. Not all virtual race sites publish results, but some operate leader boards or offer prizes as extra incentives. Others, such as Pow, donate some of their profits to charity.