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7 Tips On How To Make a Virtual Race Not Suck

Being a race director, you’ve had your fair share of struggles getting your races organized, from permits to port-a-potties you are the jack of all trades. Enter COVID-19 and now everything is shot. It may seem like a helpless time with mass gatherings being cancelled indefinitely and no end in sight?

There are plenty of us who want to remain optimistic that our fall races may still take place, and then there are others who are diving into the dark word of “Virtual Races”.

Virtual races are nothing new to the racing industry, it’s just that nobody has ever cared about them. Offering no advantages to the real thing and a slew of very big disadvantages, virtual racing seemed like something only designed for Peloton on a stationary platform (bike or treadmill).

Now, no matter where you look a new virtual race is popping up and consumers are lining up to completely ignore them because nobody WANTS to do a virtual race.

Around The Crown 10k
Around The Crown 10k Charlotte Race

The is no consistent way to time a virtual race. Incline and wind is different everywhere. Unless you are in the top 5% of racers, very few people are going to a race to RACE other people, they are going to RUN with other people. A virtual race gives the exact opposite experience. And finally there is absolutely no adrenaline boost when running a virtual race, runners are going to mail-it-in or just do it to get it done rather than going for their new PR. Virtual races suck.

That is…unless you learn to make it fun.

Before we go any further, its important to mention SweatNET is NOT a race company. We work with race directors and teams to help with the media and marketing of races. So when COVID-19 hit, we thought we would try our hand at making a solution for everyone and hosted a 6FT5K virtual race. To our surprise, with less than 2 weeks of advertising we sold over 1000 entries and had over 600 people submit times. And the feedback was amazing and perhaps unexpected. Timing will not be perfect. You need to accept that this is not a Boston qualifier. IF people want to cheat, they will. You are only wasting your time trying to stop them. Instead try to figure out how to make the experience more fun for the people who want to get the race experience.

Modify your marketing. Tongue and cheek pays dividends when you are asking people to play pretend. That’s what we are doing with a virtual race – playing pretend. If you can get people to play pretend with you instead of pretending that this doesn’t suck, they will love you for it.

People still run for swag. This is nothing new. If you don’t have race medals and T-shirts for signing up, you don’t have a race. The key here is to place your orders with your vendors AFTER the race. Only place exact order quantities.

Immerse your audience. We developed a binaural audio recording system to specifically record in true-3D sound the noises of race day. By giving our racers a digital file that they can press play with and listen to, we gave them the real race experience. From the initial crowd noise, to warm-up, to the national anthem and gunshot in the gate, racers were able to FEEL like they were at a race. The feedback we received was overwhelming hearing how many people got the adrenaline rush at the start and second wind when hearing the cheer stations around them. We received feedback that over 30% of our runners set new PR’s during their virtual race.

Don’t forget the different paces. Creating an immersive experience works only if you include everyone. The finish line shows up a lot faster for someone running a 6:00 pace vs a 12:00 pace. Letting people cross the finish line and feel that rush is critical for a successful experience.

Get creative with sponsors. It’s a lot harder to show value to a sponsor when nobody is physically showing up. This is again where the audio recording comes into play. You can include advertising for your race sponsors in the audio recording that EVERY racer is listening to.

Get your runners to be your photographers. Each participant has the power of social media and their phone cameras. Creating a social gallery is an awesome way to give your racers the sense of community that we are all craving right now.

We are not given a lot of options right now for group activities so we need to make the most of what we can. Virtual races CAN be successful and can actually be a lot of fun, but simply asking people to run without the immersion will leave a lot to be desired.

SweatNET can help you create your own custom immersive element for your virtual races. We are able to custom record with our own virtual pacers, or work directly with your own race ambassadors to record high quality binaural audio for your race of any length. Let us help you make your virtual race a success. Contact us at any time to get your custom recording created in less than 10 days. Use the live chat feature or send us an email here!


Interested in trying out the 6FT10k? Sign up here!