Virtual Runner: the new way to compete

virtual runner

Virtual Runner: the new way to compete

After running for miles, passing spectators and water stations, you see the finish line. You catch your breath, take in the cheers, and congratulate yourself on your accomplishment. Then, you stop the treadmill.

The Virtual Runner app enabled dozens of racers to successfully compete in the 2015 Falmouth Road Race, despite not being at the actual race. With virtual capabilities and the Internet, more runners now have the option to participate from remote locations.

Let the technology take you there

The Virtual Runner app was created by Outside Interactive. Runners can enter races they previously couldn’t run in person due to travel distance or sign up restrictions.

Gary McNamee, president and founder of Outside Interactive, told Mashable, “This gives them an opportunity to sign-up like they would the normal live race but at a reduced fee and they would then receive an email that would contain the virtual runner app for IPad [or] Android, the course video, an activation code, a downloadable bib, which they can actually use.”

Individuals run through the actual race course. The Falmouth Road Race footage was taken on a Segway 45 minutes prior to the beginning of the 2013 race. This ensures a more realistic race experience. Not only do runners get to see specific landmarks and scenery, but they also can hear the crowds. As the video approaches a hill, the app prompts runners to increase the incline on the treadmill. The video footage and app instructions help create a more authentic running experience.

Currently, the app features 10 course options, including the Boston Marathon and Big Sur Half Marathon.

Pilot: Falmouth Road Race

The Falmouth Road Race is 7 miles long with about 13,000 participants. Due to the race’s growing popularity, registration is completed through a lottery system. According to Runner’s World, depending on the year, up to 4,000 people are denied the possibility of running in the actual race.

The virtual race acts as a great alternative. It is $40 to race (the in-person race fee is $65), and $30 is given to the race and $10 is given to Outside Interactive. Runners who participate in the remote version are placed in a separate lottery for next year, increasing their chances of being able to run the real race.

A total of 83 virtual racers have recorded their results, which were posted online in a separate category. Kristin Bold was one of the individuals to participate in the virtual race from her home in Tampa, Fla. She told the Boston Globe, “I really wanted to run Falmouth in person, but I’m not able to get up there this August. The remote participation option gives me an opportunity to see the course and, hopefully, feel like I’m running it on my treadmill. It’s a great, low-risk way of trying out a race course before you decide if that’s a race you want to pay to travel to.”

How will it compare?

The virtual racing option is meant to be an alternative with limitations. You can’t get an exact replica of the in-person experience. However, it’s a good option to try a road race for the first time, test out a different course, or participate in a race you don’t want to miss.

NDTV Gadgets reports that the director of the Falmouth Race and the Boston Marathon, Dave McGillivray, said, “Truth be told, I don’t think you can compare the two. It’ll never replace obviously the experience of running the race in person. Nothing will ever replace that. But it’s an alternative to that.”

The virtual running experience will improve with technology advancements. It may not be a replacement for the real thing, but it gives more individuals the option to participate. As McGillivray also said, “If this technology can offer another path, why not take a look? I think it’s exciting.”