Sports have gone virtual. From packed stadiums to NASCAR drivers competing in race simulators. From sold-out arenas full of fans ready to cheer on their favorite basketball teams to Kevin Durant and fellow stars partaking in an NBA 2K video game tournament to be broadcast on ESPN. The new coronavirus pandemic has shut down athletic competitions and turned them digital.
But not all virtual events put athletes behind joysticks.
Along with Durango Running Club’s “Progression Virtual Race Series” that challenges runners to upload results of weekend runs virtually, iRunFar.com, operated by Silverton’s Meghan Hicks and Bryon Powell, has launched a virtual race that encourages people to workout together online while still practicing social distancing.
The website dedicated to coverage of many of the world’s top ultramarathon running races, launched its “Operation Inspiration Virtual Race” to be held Saturday. Athletes can sign up on the website for a donation of $20 to as much as $250, with all proceeds going to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. As of Thursday night, more than $21,000 had already been raised after an initial goal of $20,000 was set.
It’s a way for athletes to come together in a time in which in-person racing is not an option.
“In four days of sharing this and to have almost 700 people already signed up, it’s so awesome,” said Powell, the editor-in-chief of iRunFar.com. “So many staples and top runners of our sport are coming together with people from all over the world. Last I checked, we have people from 42 states and 30 countries signed up. It’s really the world coming together in an amazing way.”
The event calls for entrants to work out for at least one hour anytime Saturday. It can be a run, in-home workout, bike ride or any other means of working out an athlete can come up with and that is permitted in the athlete’s city or state, as stay-at-home orders and trail closures are now sweeping the country because of COVID-19.
“We are a running website, but this is about working out any way you can,” Powell said. “We are fortunate here in Southwest Colorado that a lot of us can go do a run by ourselves or go for a bike ride. That’s awesome. But a lot of people in the world cannot. We encourage people to get on an exercise bike, do laps in their living room, do jumping jacks. Whatever it is. We have taken all competitive aspects out of it. Do what you can for one hour on Saturday to stay active. It’s so good for the body and mind.”
Some of the world’s best ultrarunners have already signed up, from reigning Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc women’s champion Courtney Dauwalter to Hardrock 100 champions such as Anna Frost and Kilian Jornet and many more.
Durangoans Gordon Gianniny, Maggie Guterl, Samantha Lewendowski and Jenny and Scott Shine are already registered along with Silverton’s Hannah Green.
Out of all the entires, more than 130 prizes will be distributed with a total value of more than 15,000. Winners will be selected April 12. Those who wish to support the cause but stay out of the virtual race can donate $5 and receive an inspiration sticker bundle.
In true iRunFar.com fashion, the website will livecast the event throughout the day to share participant’s workouts from around the world. Race bibs will be emailed to all those registered along with information on how to be featured. Virtual post-workout hangouts will also be held.
“So much of athletics and racing is communal in nature,” Powell said. “We want to make it fun. Whether you are a Hardrock runner or someone who does a 5K in Durango, you love the community aspect of a race from getting to the start line, putting on your bib and chatting with friends to then getting done with a race and coming together after to tell stories. We will send a bib out people can print and decorate, and we will livecast what people are doing around the world to bring everyone together. Send us a picture, and we will share that on our Twitter platform. Then, let’s get together for a virtual hangout as if it is the finish line.”