A man running alone in the middle of a street with text overlaying that says "Finding ways to run while social distancing."

Finding ways to run while social distancing

Since mid-January, road races big and small have been canceled across the globe.  The Tokyo Marathon limited its field to elite runners.  The London Marathon postponed its race from April to October.  Recently races across the United States have been canceled or postponed as COVID-19 continues to spread.  So how do people find ways to compete while social distancing?  With the advent of virtual races, running while social distancing is easier than people expect.

What is social distancing?

Recent health suggestions during the COVID-19 pandemic have encouraged people to maintain social distancing.  There are multiple aspects to social distancing that governments around the world have encouraged, such as working from home, closing schools, or cancelling large public gatherings.  The cancellation of large public gatherings is why so many road races have canceled.  For example, the Tachikawa Half Marathon, which has about 5,500 runners, was canceled in mid-February to help reduce the spread of the virus in Japan.

Another important aspect of social distancing and running is maintaining physical distance between yourself and other people, especially if they are coughing or sneezing.  Different sources list different distances from three feet (one meter) to six feet (two meters).  Regardless of the recommended distance to maintain between other people, it clearly means people should not be running in large groups.  Read more about social distancing from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

What is a virtual race?

A virtual run is something individuals accomplish on their own.  People can run on a treadmill or outdoors, record their distance and time with a photo or screen capture, and send the proof to the coordinating event.  Virtual races are ideal for running while maintaining social distancing.  Although there is no crowd or post-race party, a virtual race is a great way for people to continue training and earning gear.

Signing up for a virtual race

Finding virtual races is difficult because there is not a central database.  First and foremost, runners should check with their current races to see if organizers are offering a virtual option.  For example, the Irving (Texas) Marathon canceled its St. Patrick’s Day 5K/10K, but is offering a virtual option to all registrants and opened it for new registrants, too.  Registration ends March 23, at 11:59 p.m. (click here).

Running in the USA, which is a database of races, is a great starting point.  However, the site relies upon race directors and others providing information to the database.  Therefore, it does not cover ALL road races, much less all virtual races.  Another useful database is Run Signup, which allows people to filter race types and seek out just virtual events.

Runners have different motivations and goals, so there is no such thing as a one-size fits all virtual race.  However, people interested in a month-long challenge should check out The Hoppy Runner – Virtual 50/100 Mile Challenge.  Fusion Racing, which is a small business based in Newark, Delaware, created the virtual challenge.  Registration costs $29 and includes a medal for 50-mile finishers and a medal and t-shirt for 100-mile finishers.  Registration closes on April 1.

Q&A about The Hoppy Runner – Virtual 50/100 Mile Challenge

After recently signing up for The Hoppy Runner Challenge, I reached out to organizer Nic DeCaire to learn more about the event.  Here is a snippet of our conversation.

Q: Can you tell me more about The Hoppy Runner Challenge?
A: We hope it gives a peace of mind in this crazy world.  A lot of runners trained and now are stuck with “What do I do?” There’s no clock, no time to compete against.  I’ve had about twenty races canceled, and I was worried about my employees.  So, I wanted to do something bring in revenue and provide an outlet for people to stay motivated.  The goal was about 100 people.  As of today (March 19), we have about 450 people with twenty-two states and Japan represented.

Q: How can the running community support each other right now?
A: People need to keep up with their love of running.  Fresh air and endorphins go a long way.  With the Facebook group, people might meet others in person from online.  The daily post is all about accountability.

Q: What’s your favorite race?
A: The Shamrock in Virginia Beach (Virginia).  I ran the 8K a few years ago and it was something that I had never experienced before.  It was something I wanted to replicate in Delaware.  I talked with Jerry (Frostick) from J&A Racing answered a lot of questions for me as I was starting Fusion Racing about five years ago.

Q: What’s your favorite beer?
A: I was diagnosed with celiac disease, so it’s now a gluten-free Omission.  It used to be Guinness.

Being safe while running and social distancing

People should follow recommendations of the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding social distancing.  People should also adhere to local guidelines, which may be more stringent than CDC or WHO recommendations.  Runners should also avoid parks that may be closed.

The next step

Running while social distancing means lots of people will have to adjust their routines.  For many people it means no more running at their gym.  People who run with a group or a training partner will need to adjust to maintain social distance while running.  Many people enjoy the social aspect of running, especially when participating in races.  So current health recommendations will put a damper on routines.  However, virtual races offer a great way to keep running while social distancing.


  • Pola | Jetting Around

    I must admit that I’m not a runner, but I love going for power walks and I’m concerned to see so many people running in my neighnorgood without keeping much of a distance from others. I guess it’s difficult to run with a mask on, but I really wish they would, given how many COVID-19 cases there are in France. At the same time, I have many friends who run and I hope they will stay safe doing it. Exercise has been my saving grace during this lockdown, even if it’s mostly Zumba at home. 🙂

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