Compete in upcoming virtual running races from anywhere

Mark your calendars for these 10 virtual running events, some featuring a few in-person options
Runners take off at a race start.
Photo courtesy of Sara Klemme

Running has experienced a resurgence amid the pandemic. In a 12,913-person study conducted by RunRepeat, the average runner – someone who runs maybe once or twice a week – actually increased their activity by 117% between March 2020 and March 2021.

Due to the safety concerns surrounding mass gatherings, many of the annual in-person races that runners look forward to have gone virtual. Events that are being held virtually give runners the freedom to participate in races from anywhere – a loop or two around the neighborhood, a favorite Madison park and elsewhere. Participants will often get the same gear, medals and registration packages like they usually would after registering and finishing the event. However, over the past year, many in-person events also skipped virtual revisions, and decided to postpone or completely cancel instead. As was the case for the 2020 Madison Marathon, which was supposed to take place last November.

This year, Sara Klemme, president of Madison Festivals Inc., is hopeful that the 2021 Madison Marathon presented by SSM Health will take place as usual in November, but a decision is yet to be made. Currently, event participants can register to run virtually or can add their name to an in-person waitlist that automatically registers them for the race if it is cleared to be held in-person. The Madison Marathon Board of Directors plans to announce a decision about the in-person race the first week of July.

“The biggest challenge is the uncertainty regarding guidelines and regulations for in-person events. Everyone is forced to plan events utilizing multiple scenarios because so much is unknown,” says Klemme.

In the meantime, runners can train and compete on a track of their choice by signing up for next month’s Run Madtown, which is one of many upcoming races being held virtually. If you run leisurely or you race to win, whether its 3.1 miles or 26.2, check out a list of Madison-area races going virtual below.

Run Madtown
Sign up for a 5k, 10k, kids’ 2k, half marathon or a full marathon, which is new this year. The dates for the event are flexible, and as long as participants start and finish the race between May 29 and June 6, it counts. Registered participants who complete a race of their choice will receive a Run Madtown lightweight T-shirt, a finisher medal, race bib, beverage and drink coupons for Festival Foods and invites to exclusive virtual trainings and classes.

Made to Move Women’s Race Series
Fellow Flowers is hosting an inaugural hybrid race, in which you can participate in a virtual or in-person 10K, a virtual 5K or a virtual one-mile race on June 12. The smaller in-person race in the UW Arboretum will start near Henry Vilas Zoo on a looped course that takes runners toward Edgewood Hill. You can complete your race between June 12-14, and registration ends June 6. Signup costs range from $30 to $60 (prices increase after May 1).

Word on the Street 5k Run/Walk
The Verona Public Library is hosting a hybrid 5k Run/Walk on May 1, where participants have the option to partake virtually or in-person. Shirts and packets are available for contactless pick up at the library starting April 1, or they can be shipped for an extra fee. Run or walk the 5k anywhere, and if you use the hashtag #veronawots2021 on social media, you will be entered into a prize drawing. Registration is $30, and all proceeds go toward the Verona Public Library Endowment Fund.

Blue Mound Trail Run
Blue Mound Trail Run is the first race of the Savanna Trail Race Series – five trail races spread out across Dane County state park trails. This is another event planning to go hybrid with both an in-person and virtual participation option. Virtual runners can join in for the 10k or 20k, and submit a self-timed finish. Donations and registration fee go to conserving the state’s parks. Keep an eye on the Savanna Series website for final in-person and virtual race day decisions.

Lake Monona 20k or 5k Run/Walk
The in-person Lake Monona 20k or 5k Run/Walk will take place on May 1, but choosing to participate virtually will give you the flexibility complete your race anytime – and anywhere – between April 30 and May 9. The registration fee is $29.99, and includes an event T-shirt, finisher medal, virtual race bib, an invitation to the race’s exclusive Facebook group and a curated Spotify playlist to listen to while you run. Virtual participants are encouraged to enter their bib number in RaceJoy, an app that will track your time while you run.

UW Carbone’s Race for Research
Runners have a two-week window to complete their event for UW Carbone’s Race for Research. What started as a walking event in 2011 to benefit adult and pediatric cancer research has evolved into a 5k race that raised more than $170,000 in 2019. Anyone who is interested can sign up to complete the event’s challenges via Strava from June 5-19. While the app tracks a variety of activities, the Race for Research virtual challenges will only track walks and runs. Upon registration, participants will be sent a link to join the event’s private club on Strava and will also be asked which type of cancer research they would like to support through fundraising. Registration is $30 for virtual participants and $15 for cancer survivors.

Hot2Trot 1k, 5k and Half Marathon
Cottage Grove puts on a Hot2Trot 5k, half marathon and 1k kids’ run every year to support the Cottage Grove Fire Department, with a virtual option on June 19 for 2021 participants. The in-person races usually consist of elite runners, novices, those looking to support the community, as well as firefighters running in full gear. Registering to race virtually costs $30 for all of the race options and includes a finisher T-shirt.

Since virtual races can be completed from anywhere in the world, why not sign up for some located beyond the isthmus? Here are a few other virtual events from around the state that you can conquer right here in Madison.

Wisconsin Half Marathon and 5k
Usually consisting of a marathon as well, this race in Kenosha narrowed things down to a half marathon and 5k for 2021. Virtual runners could have recorded their event as early as April 9, and have until May 9 to complete their race of choice. Participants who compete virtually will also receive a medal, shirt and race bib in the mail.

Cellcom Green Bay Marathon
This nonprofit event is donating proceeds from its 2021 event to organizations supporting COVID-19 relief efforts, focusing on hard-hit areas of homelessness, hunger and mental health. The Cellcom Green Bay Marathon has an event for everyone – a marathon, half marathon, 5k race and kids’ run, as well as relay options for the marathon and half marathon distances – and all of these events are virtual only.

Cream City 5k
Though this Milwaukee event is called the Cream City 5k, it actually also offers a 5k run, 3k walk and a kids’ fun run for virtual race options. All virtual runners and walkers will receive an event shirt, Buff gear and more. Registration varies by race category and date, but the window to sign up closes at midnight on June 4.

Hannah Twietmeyer is a contributor to Madison Magazine.

Magazine footer that says "Like this article, get so much more by subscribing"