Not only is the cold weather bearing down and keeping people indoors, but with quarantine and COVID-19 precautions, this winter has proven especially difficult to stay active. Luckily, organizations and active lifestyle enthusiasts alike are coming up with creative ways to stay active despite limitations.

One of these creative ways is now a huge trend that many hope is here to stay, virtual marathons. With virtual marathons, now there are even more opportunities to motivate yourself to stay active, get your steps in and be competitive through the cold months. Virtual marathons bring a freedom and advantages that differ from in-person marathons. 

With virtual marathons, you can motivate yourself to compete and complete the marathon anywhere at anytime in the comfort and convenience of your own time and space. You can virtually make the race your own based on your personal level of fitness, whether you complete it at home on a treadmill, on a hiking trail, sidewalk or the mall. You can be competitive with yourself or invite friends to virtually stay fit with you and be accountable to each other online. 

Mary deWolf has entered about 10 virtual 5Ks since the pandemic began, three of which were sponsored by Cumberland Mountain State Park.  

“I take advantage of these opportunities,” she said. “It is something you can do and not be around a lot of people.” 

She has entered virtual 5K marathons with her daughter in Michigan and sister in Maryland as a way to stay active together while apart.

“They are fun. I like to do the 5Ks for a cause,” she added. “I always have my stepper going, my pedometer on my phone. So I always use that to know when I’m done.”

And, because there are always new trails being built in Cumberland County, deWolf said there’s always somewhere new to explore while completing a virtual marathon. 

Another creative idea for virtual marthoners is to video record your marathons. Be sure to include the marathon distance on the recording and your personal time goals and how fast you completed the distance, like a visual fitness diary.

“I don’t know that I try to beat myself, but I do pay attention to make sure I’m not lollygagging,” she laughed. But she added that some people are competitive and do try to beat their own personal best marathon time. 

For those who take to the great outdoors for their marathons, video recording can also be a great benefit to your friends joining in the virtual marathons. Recording your marathons with a digital activity camera or cell phone can be shared with your friends who may be unable to get outside or to the trails. This allows them to virtually join you on the trails while they get their steps in at home on their treadmills, ellipticals or by simply walking in place. Recording your marathon gives your friends the added benefit of a virtual visual interest while they participate in their virtual marathons. Video recordings can be shared either in live time or after the fact. 

She said the added benefit of paved trails is an encouragement. 

“That’s what’s cool about the 5K. If your mobility is compromised in some way, you can just walk the paved trails, and biking, too. A lot of 5Ks you’ve seen are walk, bike or run, whatever you prefer. There are a lot of modes. So it is good for walkers, hikers, bikers who just get out and move around,” she said.

Marthoners should continue to practice proper safety precautions, training and warm-ups to prepare for marathons, whether to complete them indoors or out, to reduce risk of injury and attain personal fitness goals. For those staying active out of doors, it is recommended to be careful about footing, wear appropriate footwear, be aware of your surroundings and immediate conditions, be it lighting where the sun is in the sky or inclement weather, and pay attention to slick spots and leaf litter covering parts of the trails.

“My thing is getting outside and hiking,” she said. “With the trails, I think hiking, in general, and the ability to get out is a really good way to enjoy the winter.” 

You can virtually travel all over the world with virtual destination races. Check out The Best Races website where you can sign up for marathons like Run NYC and Run Rome, among other special interest races, in which they send digital packets and virtual visuals like you are actually there.

Like in-person marathons, many of the virtual marathons are fundraisers for non-profit organizations. So, it’s a twofer in that you can not only help yourself stay active, but you have the opportunity to help others.

Many marathons are offering in-person and virtual options, so whether you run or walk your race, outdoors or at home, sign up, set your personal goals and achieve them.  

“Just because it’s winter… we’re just not stopping,” she said. 

For a list of virtual fundraising marathons, visit www.virtualrunevents.com, runsignup.com and thebestraces.com. A simple Google search could also yield virtual 5Ks you might be interested in entering. And be sure to keep an eye out for local marathons, like the CMSP marathons, to benefit local causes.

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