With the world cautiously exiting the pandemic, some running events are remaining virtual this year. But there are companies that have been offering such experiences since well before coronavirus became part of the vernacular.
If you're not quite ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with your competitors, for whatever reason, here are some options to consider.
Gone for a Run
Well-established often means well-organized, and that's the case with this X-year-old company. In addition to a smooth process, Gone for a Run offers plenty of swag. Medals are a standard requirement for us, but you can also expect a shirt or something quirky like a pair of socks with your race cost, and a portion of each entry fee goes to that event's designated charity.
Recommended race: Marathon Challenge
Why we love it: Work your way up from a 10K to a 30K with expert guidance from Coach Megan, customizable training plans and the support of fellow challengers from across the country. As you go, tracking your progress through Fitbit, Strava or MapMyRun, you'll receive magnetized tokens to mark it on your medal.
Conqueror Virtual Challenge Series
Based around well-known routes and landmarks like Route 66 and Mt. Kilimanjaro, these challenges tend to be longer distances, from 21 to 2,485 miles, trackable manually or through syncing with your favorite app or device. Many of the courses have a street view to help you trace your progress and connect with the course and other challengers, and include digital postcards as you reach certain milestones. If that's not enough, the unique medals for completing a challenge are.
Recommended challenge: Starter Pack
Why we love it: Start strong with the series' three most popular challenges: the English Channel (21 miles), the Inca Trail through Machu Picchu (26.2 miles) and England's historic Hadrian's Wall (90 miles). You'll get access to a private Facebook group for encouragement, plus a medal for each challenge you finish.
Run With Character
At half the cost and 100% more accessible than Disney's virtual race series, which always seems to be sold out, this series offers equally cool themed events centered around favorite movies and characters. Special swag is routinely available, though the standard medals are pretty standout.
Recommended race: Inaugural Grumpy Cat Race
Why we love it: First off, Grumpy Cat, hello, but also, this 5K comes with a downloadable bib, a themed medal, a logo sticker, and more if you opt for it. Plus, a portion of your entry will benefit the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.
The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee
From the man who birthed the infamous Barkley Marathons comes a virtual race with just as much character. Participants have until Aug. 31 to complete a 40,734,144-inch (1,000-kilometer) course across the state, entering their progress daily. If you don't think you can make it solo, you can start or request to join a team. Everyone who signs up gets a T-shirt, with branded buckles handed out to the finishers.
If you're raring to go in real life, the Chattanooga area has some upcoming in-person races. Here are some to get you started.
June 2: Big Run 5K
Where: Camp Jordan, East Ridge
June 12: Bubbles of Fun Run 5K, 10K
Where: Camp Jordan, East Ridge
June 27: Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon
Where: Downtown Chattanooga
More info: team-magic.com/events/223
July 3: Run, White and Blue 5K
Where: Ringgold, Ga.
More info: catoosa.info/5k
July 10: Burn Your Half Off 13.1M, 10K, 5K
Where: Tennessee Riverpark
July 17: Scenic City Scorcher 2M
Where: North Chattanooga
Aug. 7: Still Hollow Trail Race 10K, half marathon
Where: Enterprise South Nature Park
Sept. 6: 5K for FCA
Where: Chattanooga State
More info: chattanoogafca.org/race
Sept. 11: Chickamauga Chase 15K, Trail Race, 5K
Where: Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Ga.
More info: facebook.com/ChickamaugaChase
Meet the two Chattanoogans who just competed, for the first time, in the 2021 World Rowing Indoor Championships