So, we are now entering high summer here in Europe and one thing is for sure; there will be none or at least very few IRL races under Covid. We are all responsible for keeping our social distancing and help preventing the spread, but it does not necessarily have to keep you from racing.
Virtual Racing have taken off under the pandemic and one can really understand why. The concept is a great way for organizers to engage with new participants all over the world and expand their reach. For participants it is a great way to feel part of something and keep that motivation going. The success of Virtual Races has not been an overnight success. There have been many tries with virtual concepts over the years and platforms have been struggling to get people to engage in their races. The digitalization of the race industry has accelerated since the start of the pandemic, but it is hard to draw long term conclusions on what changes it will have to the industry.
The Swedish race, Coronamilen, is probably one of the greatest exampels of a successful Virtual Race. The organizer managed to attract more than 10000 participants over two races to run for Covid response in Sweden. Participants were mainly Swedes, but the race attracted racers from other parts of the world as well. This is the beauty of Virtual Races, you can participate anywhere and in a time of your own choice! One of the success factors for Coronamilen was that it attracted a wider audience of participants. Participants in all age groups participated, many who weren’t actively taking part in endurance races. My conclusion is that the race provided two things for participants; 1. Purpose and 2. Belonging.
The race had a clear purpose of donating money to Covid response in Sweden through a well established institution, Radiohjälpen. I do however think that being part of a group for a common cause and doing the race with other participants also gave participants a sense of belonging that engaged them to share content in social media and help spread the word.
On the organizer side Virtual Races has turned the world upside down. I would say that Virtual Races require other competences and resources than traditional races. Engaging ambassadeurs and communites are growing in importance for IRL events, but for Virtual Races it is completely essential. The successful events we have seen so far have had this in common with the communities pulling new participants to the events.
Another thing that is crucial for Virtual Races which differ from IRL-races is the importance of “purpose”. The concept of the race needs to be clear and well thought through. I would say that the purpose can be anything, but to make it successful the purpose needs to be relevant. We have Virtual Race-concepts on the Race.se platform today where you can race against top athletes in Rollerskiing, participate for charity, run for your local café or even win a car. Virtual Races will defineatly show new creative concepts and my guess is that these will survive after Covid, but also influence IRL-events in the future.
Going into the summer we have seen an almost full stop of IRL-races due to the novel Corona-virus outbreak, but also the large growth of the number of Virtual Races. I think that Virtual Races will be this summers flavour since it gives that sense of purpose and belonging. I do think that Virtual Races can contribute to keeping the motivation, but it is also a great way to give that extra boost in your training. Despite it being easy to set up a virtual event, the road to success for organizers is far from certain. If you have a relevant purpose and a way to spread the word you do however have two of the most important success factors according to me.
Whatever your sport or ambition we have worked to gather events from all over the world into the Race.se platform, so check it out and get inspired. I strongly suggest that you try out a virtual race this summer if you haven’t or if you have an idea of a race of your own, give the team at Race.se a call.
Take care, stay safe and keep your distance!