I Signed-Up for My First Virtual Marathon – Why I Chose This One

Mileage goals
Written by Charlie

I finally signed up for my first virtual marathon! Here is some information on virtual marathons and why I chose the one I did as my first “official” virtual marathon.

With marathons being canceled all over the world in 2020, “virtual” marathons have become “the” thing for marathon organizers to inspire their participants. And, it has not been just marathons – some have even virtually run across the state of Tennessee and some across New York! Here is the first virtual marathon I signed up for and why I chose this one.

My First Virtual Marathon – Why?

What is a Virtual Marathon?

Virtual marathons is essentially a way to encourage runners to run the marathon distance on their own and then upload that information to receive a medal for the race. Most runners are not actually running the real course and it is completely on the honor system (since the organizers have no way of knowing if YOU really ran the distance since the data could come from anyone).

Running 26.2 miles can be difficult in an organized environment with other runners and support staff – running it on your own can be quite a bit more difficult! I have actually run the 26.2 mile distance (and past it) at least 30 times over the years as I trained for various events (like my Running Round the World with Miles event) or ultra-marathons (distances over 26.2 miles). I know how difficult it can be – even like this one this year where I did 26.2 miles on a small circle loop!

A virtual marathon is also a way for race organizers to recoup a bit of money that was put out for things like medals and race gear. By charging a smaller fee, they are able to still give out the gear and medals while getting the money back for them.

Some people are really against the virtual marathon since you are getting a medal for an actual race you never ran – but the truth is that in 2020, very few people have actually run an organized marathon so no one is going to see the 2020 Boston Marathon medal and assume you ran the actual Boston Marathon (which has been canceled).

Which Virtual Marathon Did I Choose?

I had thought about signing up for a couple of different virtual marathons earlier this year just because I really had always wanted to do them so it would be cool to get a medal from one of them. But, early on, some organizers were charging high prices for the virtual events – like the same price as the original marathon itself (Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN wanted $135 for their virtual marathon!).

I would have LOVED to do the virtual Boston Marathon, which has the strictest timeframe to run it in (it must be done in a single running within a one week timeframe in September) but they are only making it available to runners that were already accepted and registered for the 2020 Boston Marathon.

I still may do the virtual NYC Marathon (which opens up tomorrow!) because it would be cool to have a guaranteed entry but that was not the one I was excited about.

The 45th Marine Corps Marathon!
Marine Corps Marathon

After the last of my 6 marathon runs on 6 continents – here with General Glenn who ran his first 26.2 mile distance that day!

The virtual marathon I chose as my “first” was the Marine Corps Marathon. I actually signed up for the virtual marathon before they canceled the actual marathon itself. This is a marathon I have always wanted to do but has never worked out for me with the dates, plus it is a lottery entry.

My best friend growing up has been in the Marines for 20 years now and we used to do everything together – but, due to my asthma, I was never able to join the Armed Forces. Running a marathon is nothing like military training of course, but I had always thought it would be cool to run this race out of my respect for the Marines and because I absolutely love running in Washington, DC.

In fact, as my final solo “marathon” effort back in 2015 (where I ran 6 solo marathons on 6 continents in 5 days), I ran most of the course of the Marine Corps Marathon so I did at least get to experience the course itself!

But, I Signed Up for More Than Just the Marathon!

Plus, this year, the Marine Corps Marathon medal will have sand in it from the actual beaches of Iwo Jima – which is just really cool.

The Challenge Coin for the Trifect – from the Marine Corps Marathon website

Oh, but I did not just sign up for the virtual Marine Corps Marathon! See, when I was signing up, I learned that they have a unique Trifecta Challenge Coin this year for those runners that run the virtual versions of the 10K, the marathon, and the 50K – all need to be run between October 1 – November 10 (the Marine Corps birthday). Plus, you get the medals for each of those as well! So, I signed up for all three! 🙂

Bottom Line

Running a virtual marathon is definitely not the same as running the real thing but it will enable me to get a medal this year for an actual marathon I have dreamed of running but was never able to run. Plus, I actually did a lot of the course already and can push myself to do a marathon and 50k in the space of a couple of weeks.

Or, maybe I will just go hardcore and do both the marathon and 50k back-to-back. 🙂

I know there are many that are running virtual marathons this year, some may be running their first virtual marathon. Since I have covered this distance solo dozens of times, I will have some posts with some tips that I hope will help you!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.