Can't wait for that weekend race or that date with your slightly-faster cycling buddy? You can fire up your competitive spirit right now with apps and virtual races. Here are some fun ones.
With each of these options, you run or cycle on your own, but can compare your time or progress against others for extra motivation -- or just enjoy knowing that, in a sense, you have company. Here are a few of the standout apps:
- Strava, available for both iOS and Android, tracks outdoor running and cycling with plenty of opportunities to challenge yourself. Routes, or "segments," each have their own leaderboard, so when you run or cycle a popular place you can compare your time with other Strava users and perhaps win a coveted KOM (King-of-Mountain) status. Strava also offers non-competitive challenges, sort of like merit badges you can win by running or cycling a certain distance or meeting other requirements. For example, there's a challenge for exploring and photographing new routes.
- RunSocial, currently only available for iOS, plays video of scenic outdoor routes while you run on a treadmill, speeding up or slowing down the video to match your speed. Anyone else running the course will show up on the video (every user picks an avatar) so just like in real life, you can try to hang on behind them or power ahead and leave them in your dust.
- Some real-life races, like Beat the Blerch and the Christmas Story Run, offer a virtual option for those who can't make it. Typically you pay a registration fee and receive a packet of swag in the mail, perhaps including items like a T-shirt and finisher's medal. You run the race anywhere and anytime you want. Some, like the Oddysey half marathon, ask you to post a pic of your GPS watch or phone to show you did it; for others, you're on the honour system.
Read more at Outside magazine about other virtual options for racing folks you've never met, without ever having to meet them.
What Are the Best Virtual Races? [Outside]