Virtual Running Events Offer Exercise and Socially-Distanced Fun

By: Karen Dybis | December 30, 2020
Belle Isle Virtual 5K

Photo courtesy of Belle Isle.

Exercise has been a balm for many people during the coronavirus pandemic, and one thing that many runners are missing is getting together with their running groups or participating in area runs. But the rise of “virtual running events” gives people a chance to be physically fit, support local nonprofits and feel like they’re part of a running community again. 

Metro Detroit has a variety of virtual running experiences available through the rest of the winter and into the spring. These events include instructions on when and where to run or suggestions on where to go to get the run completed. In fact, you can run or walk most of these events at your own pace, which makes them accessible to all fitness levels.

Once an individual or team is registered, most of these events will send participants personalized bibs, some sort of shirt or pullover to wear with their logo on it, a medal to highlight their participation, a custom finisher’s certificate as well as a way to upload photos of themselves during or upon completing the run. Many of these virtual runs also have a charity or non-profit organization they support with donations from participants. 

Belle Isle New Year’s Eve Virtual Run

The Belle Isle New Year’s Eve Virtual Run has been an annual tradition for half a century, and no one wanted to end the longest continuously held running event in Michigan for 2020. As a result, the event will be virtual this year and support U CAN-CER VIVE, ensuring 100% of the funds stay in Michigan and support people locally.  

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This event is fun because it happens on New Year’s Eve, participants said, and it has a special 6-inch champagne-shaped medal for registered participants to wear. Imagine showing up at your next Zoom meeting with that medal on and the stories you can tell about your run in Detroit’s most unique city park. 

“The Belle Isle New Year’s Eve 5K is a great race with spectacular views,” said Christopher Johnson, a voiceover actor and longtime fitness advocate who loves to run, bicycle and just get outside as much as possible around Metro Detroit. 

Here are some other virtual running events for those who want to get outside and support not-for-profit groups around Metro Detroit and nationwide. 

America’s Santa Run

This year’s holiday may have lots of people apart from their friends and families, but they can run together in Santa’s honor. Its special app allows participants to track their run, send out notifications and upload photos to a community gallery to see what people have accomplished during the event week. The event sponsors donations for Trees for Troops, which delivers Christmas trees and decorations to military families. 

Allstate Hot Chocolate Virtual 5k

They call it “America’s Sweetest Race,” and it has both a 5k and 15k option that is set in multiple cities, including Detroit. You can run or walk any distance you want, and you’ll support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for your efforts. And if that’s not enough, registered participants get a swag bag that includes a chocolate sweet treat for getting through the virtual run in addition to a jacket and finisher’s medal for each distance completed. 

Polar Plunge

Always wanted to do a plunge into ice-cold water just for fun? If you’ve ever considered it, a virtual version may be the safest bet. The Polar Plunge event, which runs from now through February, lets you register to raise money for Special Olympics Michigan with a frozen water-balloon fight, snow angels, a dive into a snowbank or any other safe idea of getting really cold this winter for a good cause. 

Neptune: Weathering the Storm

This running-and-walking challenge is aimed at people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels. The Neptune: Weathering the Storm virtual run has the 2021 goal of its participants logging enough miles during their runs or walks to get to the planet Neptune. That’s a 2.75 billion mile journey, so they need lots of people to sign up and join the challenge.