Petzold: In-person races: A thing of the past?

Columnist Megan Petzold discusses the benefits and disadvantages of virtual races compared to in-person races.

Megan Petzold

At the start of COVID-19, I, like most people, tried to find new things to keep me busy during the day. While school can be enough to consume my days, I found that only focusing on school, day in and day out for months, was getting both physically and mentally taxing for me. 

I started going to the gym at my apartment complex and using State Gym more times than I had in the previous two-and-a-half years of my college career. I also talked about beginning to do 5K races with my mother when I would come to town. However, being that it was in the beginning of a worldwide pandemic, 5K races were moved to a virtual platform. We decided to take part in one together to see how it would go, and I can firmly say I am torn on whether or not I enjoy the virtual platform more than in-person races. 

First of all, having a virtual race platform made it so that my mother and I could participate in a race together from across the country. This was great for us because it allowed us to continue isolating and, in my case, staying at school, but still allowed us to participate in a race together! Having an online race also allowed start time flexibility, accountability, distribution of the miles and was less expensive than a normal race would be. When we started this race, I was worried about being able to take enough time to run 5K, much less starting it during my day. So, whoever was running the race made it so that participants could begin whenever they wanted within a month. It made it so much easier to participate in the race when I was able to pick whatever start time I wanted. 

However, the downside to having a virtual race platform is that participants can have a lack of motivation, people get too busy and simply forget they signed up, and participants don’t get to have the atmosphere of getting up early and going to a race. That was the largest downside for me.

I enjoyed getting up super early to go to a new place to run and compete against others. With a virtual race, you’d likely take the same running route you would any other day and not have anyone to spectate or compete against. 

I think virtual races were a great solution during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I would like to someday return to competing in a race in person. I think the benefits of having in-person races greatly outweigh the benefits virtual races have provided.