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Nov 2, 2022

Virtual and Alone

Participating in a virtual race can have adverse effects on one’s mental happiness and enjoyment.  For most of us, we sign up for a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, or Marathon with the anticipation of not only having to train for the race, but being in community with other like runners and walkers.

COVID sat many of us on the sidelines when it came to participating in races.  I have used the term in the past, even with avid runners, and many are not familiar with the term ‘virtual race’.  A virtual race can be completed at any location and at any pace that is comfortable and suitable for you.  You can do the virtual race on the treadmill, on the pavement, or anywhere you desire.

For those who do not necessarily long for the companionship, the camaraderie, or the hustle and bustle of pre-race preparation and post-race festivities, virtual races might be for you.

For me, I enjoy doing races with my Sole Sisters, the fellowship, the crowds, the excitement of getting up early and preparing for the next few hours being packed with exhilarating moments.

Adrenaline is on 10 when preparing for a race, it remains on 10 while participating in the race, and if the race has a post-race celebration or party, your adrenaline usually remains until you’ve danced your last step.  When participating in an in-person race, there are usually spectators cheering you on as you pass their selected cheering spot.  The cheers alone can literally push you to the next mile.  Some of us need this encouragement as we go along the course.

So why did I title this article ~ Virtual and Alone?   Virtual races are much different than an in-person race.  Let us explore why:

There are no other runners, no nutritional support on the course, (i.e. hydration stations), no spectators to cheer you on with fun signs or ‘Need a Boost’ sign, no friends to run the course with or friends to wait for you at the Finish Line, and no Finish Line arch to run under.

Is the virtual race experience for you?


  • When you are training for any race, you will be motivated to stick with your training plan.
  • You can participate and complete the race any time and select the location of your choice.
  • There are no parking issues.
  • You do not have to awake at the crack of dawn to travel to the race and prepare for pre-race in-person logistics.
  • You don’t have to conform to the time designated for in-person race. You can do a virtual on your own time.


  • You will not have the spectator support you may look forward to when signing up for an in-person race.
  • The virtual experience can get very boring.
  • There is no Finish Line to cross that symbolizes earning your medal.
  • The absence of the actual race environment can work against you mentally.

Nothing can replace the excitement of race day, from picking up your packet, to hearing the cheers of spectators along the route, to enjoying the post-race events.  The race environment is an enjoyable reward for all of the hard work you have put into getting over the Finish Line.

Finishing a virtual race with no one at the Finish Line, (partly because there is normally no Finish Line, unless you create one yourself), can seem like a letdown.

You serve as the Race Director in a virtual race. Every aspect of the event becomes your personal responsibility from mapping out your route to planning water stops. If you are doing this virtual race alone, your personal safety becomes a concern, and you must be aware of your surroundings and the area you’ve planned to complete the race.

Virtual races require inner strength.  To finish a virtual race, requires a heightened sense of motivation.  When you are out there alone with no support or competition, it is easy to slow down when you get tired and boredom sets in.  Reaching a goal in a virtual race often requires more mental fortitude than it would take under normal race conditions.

I have vowed to not do another virtual race.  If I cannot participate in an in-person race with friends, family, or my Sole Sisters, I will not be participating in races.

I should not have to sacrifice my enjoyment for a medal.

By: Eden Barbee-Mabry / (@gardenonthegram – IG/ @EdenJBe – Twitter)
Eden Barbee-Mabry is an Education Support Analyst with the State of Georgia. Eden is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and was led to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia after graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 1988. Eden joined Black Girls Run! in the Spring of 2016 and graduated from the Walk B4 You Run program in June of 2016 and is currently Run Lead for the Fairburn, Georgia group. Eden is a purse lover and strives to inspire every woman because her belief is that although the circumstances may be different, every woman can extract strength from another woman’s story.