Community Roundup 5/13/20 – Applying the Lessons of Physical Races to Virtual Ones

We’re checking in regularly to see what the endurance community is doing to keep the industry running forward in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. For more ideas, view you can find all the previous highlights archive here.

Today’s creative events look at virtual events or challenges that have been created by organizations that normally put on physical races. Why? They’ve done an impressive job of using their planning and experiential knowledge and translating it into a new format.

Key Largo to Key West Challenge

Vision Event Management typically operates in the Midwest…but they love Key West, and are using a virtual challenge to bring Key West to their neighbors – and to runners across the country. Introducing the Key Largo to Key West Challenge!

Vacation Anywhere.

Every race needs a hook: a theme or twist that separates the event from other races. This is the “why” for showing up to a physical race – and is even more key to set apart your virtual event.

To make the challenge more than just a 100-mile challenge, they’re doubling down on the vacation theme with beach-inspired swag packages that include items like a baha shirt, koozie, and a Cooler Backpack that’s perfect for a road trip. Each of their package options, and all of their website descriptions focus on the sun and surf of the virtual challenge.

Capitalizing on Referrals

How do you market on a shoestring budget? Convince your runners to spread the word for you. Just like running is virtual now, all sorts of social interactions have moved online, making it easier than ever for participants to recruit their friends and family via referrals. Key Largo to Key West has a robust program referral program that rewards their most ambitious referrers, and keeps the program at the top of everyone’s mind with frequent social media posts tauting referrers who earn rewards. And it’s working: 26% of their registrations currently come from referrals.

Be Inclusive

There’s a reason for including multiple race distances on your regular RaceDay – and the same applies online. Race Packages include a 200, mile option, a 100 mile option, a 50 mile option, or a relay package that lets participants split the distance among a 4-person team. This allows the race to welome both experience runners looking for a challenge and new beginners.

The Virtual Bunny Boogie

When social restrictions made the Bunny Boogie race right before Easter an impossibility, Jim Gerweck of Super Race Systems didn’t panic. Instead, he used the few weeks of notice to apply his measured logic to the situation and determine the best way to move forward by moving to a virtual option.

Cost Balancing

Since registration was already well underway, it wasn’t feasible to alter the pricing to meet the new circumstances – but luckily, there was enough time to avoid eating some fixed costs that had not come due, yet. With the savings from police, permitting, porta-potties, and some prizes, there was enough registration money to cover the cost of shipping swag to participants.

Creating a Flexible Race Day

While it’s likely that some local runners opted not to participate, the Bunny Boogie found a silver lining in virtual – participants from around the country were able to join. For example, a man who had recently retired and moved out of the area was able to join virtually in order to run against his son and grandson in another state. To further encourage inclusivity, the race allowed results to be recorded with a time or as a simple “I finished!”.

For those who were local, had the option to run wherever – including the official course. There was no big, fancy production: they simply marked the course lightly, posted the route, and let people know they should ensure they run solo. For a small race with a one-week window to complete the race, this was feasible without danger of overcrowding. At the end of the race window, 87 runners had successfully uploaded their finish – not bad for a race that can range 90-150 physical runners, depending on the weather that year!

Best of all: runners were supportive and enthusiastic of the changes.

Advanced Running Project

Brandon Hough of Advanced Running Project isn’t just applying his current race directing skills to the virtual realm – he’s using the time to learn new skills that he can apply both now and to future races.

Two new ventures include the Buckeye Challenge, a goal to make it 1,118.87 miles around Ohio (with a year to accomplish it), and the Old Glory Marathon, a fall virtual marathon (and half, and 10K, and 5K) in support of veterans. The sleek websites take advantage of a number of technology elements that are either new, or weren’t previously used to their fullest by Advanced Running Project. These include:

Communication, Communication, Communication

It’s not just the race directors who are new to virtual racing: it’s most of your participants. The websites for both races include detailed FAQ’s, with everything from what a virtual race is to how to plan a route and what swag to expect.

Tell us what YOU’RE doing!

Doing something creative and fun to help your community? Let us know!

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