How To Plan A Virtual Race

Planning a virtual race can be an overwhelming task. Even if you have planned an in-person race there is a learning curve in putting your race online.

Here are a few easy steps to help you get organized and your race on track.

Race Director Tip: Here are some definitions and clarifications to help you get started:

5K = 3.1 Miles

10K = 6.2 Miles

Half Marathon = 13.1 Miles

Full Marathon = 26.2 Miles

You will see references to Runners and Walkers throughout this article. This is because it does not matter how fast you finish. What matters is the journey that gets you there.

1. Choose Your Race Name

This seems simple but can take awhile to secure a name. A good name can go a long way!

2. Choose Your "Race" Date

To begin with you need to pick your date. This may be the easiest step of the virtual race. Because no location is needed you are free to choose any date.

Though your race will not be on a certain date or time this step is important for you to be able to communicate when race times need to be submitted.

3. Will You Be Looking For Sponsors?

Telling WHY you are having a race is important. We have helped organizations raise over $10,000 in cash and in-kind sponsorship for single events with the use of a story telling template.

The example sponsorship packet above was printed in a booklet format and given out to local businesses. We saw great success with a focus on the WHY.

Flyers work as well if you would prefer to use a one sheet sponsorship page. We suggest checking out one of these websites that offer free online graphic design software to help you create your materials:

Using Microsoft Word or Apple Pages can also produce great materials. It's all about what you are comfortable with.

Ask sponsors if they would like to include any advertisements or giveaways along with your race swag. This is a great way for buisneses and organizations to get inforamtion straight to consumeres.

Race Director Tip: Collecting "door prizes" is another way to attract participants. At in-person races runners/walkers can pick up their door prize at registration, with a virtual race you can include it in their race swag pick-up or mail it!

4. Race Swag?

Participants of 5Ks, 10Ks, Half & Full Marathons love race swag! The most common item is a race shirt though the bigger the race in distance and cost can lead to more extravagant items. There are some half & full marathons that have finisher jackets, a prized possession among runners/walkers.

Some other options for any size race are branded gym bags, sunglasses, sweatbands, etc.

We encourage you to check with your local printing shops before browsing online. There are many times where a local shop has given discounts and deals that national print shops can not compete with. Plus, shopping local is good for your community!

If you plan to order swag, custom or otherwise remember to coordinate the ordering time based on few factors.

- If you are collecting sponsors for your race it's common practice to have their logo on the back of the race shirt. This is also a great selling point for their sponsorship!

- The number of participants vs. the number you order. Typically race directors will advertise "register by **/**/**** to get a shirt or other item" this will allow you balance your order to make sure you don't have to many extra

Race Director Tip: In-Person races typically have race bibs to display the participants bib number and emergency contact information. Though these are not required for virtual races, runners/walkers like to collect their bibs from each race. It's up to you! If you would like to purchase Race Bibs we have always had great service with Road ID. They will even send coupons that you can use as door prizes!

5. Awards?

This one is up to you.

There are many virtual races that offer awards to all participants or to the top finishers in an age/gender group.

Commonly there are 3 awards per age group, per gender. Lets break that down.


Males Age 20 - 29 would have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers.

Females Age 20 - 29 would have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers.

Use the example above to calculate how many awards you would need.

Again, before you go searching online for a national award shop check with your local award shop.

If you would like to cut costs even more consider a generic medal that you can place a nice sticker on the back of! All the sticker would need to have on it is the Gender, Age Group, and 1st, 2nd or 3rd Place. If you are providing participation awards then the detail on the sticker can just reflect the race name or anything else you decide is important.

6. Choose Your Sign-Up Method

There are several options for you to collect registrations for your race. Here are a few of the popular websites. Keep in mind that some of these websites may collect registration fees that may reduce your overall profits.

Feel free to search for more options, the websites above are just a few of what is available. If you have the ability to collect registrations and fees without the use of a website you can save some money. The perk of these websites is that they also capture the registration signups with ease. This will allow you to know who you runners/walkers are and importation data fields that you may need for race awards such as gender and age. You can also collect email addresses for easy communication and mailing addresses if you have any race swag to send them.

Race Director Tip: Encourage you participants to post photos of their run or results on their preferred social media. You can even pick an engaging #hashtag so you can follow their journey and help them celebrate!

7. How to Collect Race Times

The easiest (and FREE) way to collect race times is to use Google Forms. With Google Forms you are able to create an easily shareable/accessible form that can be completed on a computer, tablet, phone, or other mobile device.

After runners/walkers submit their information through the form it is save in a Google Sheet that allows you to sort, share, and save the results of your race with ease.

Check out the video below to become familiar with Google Forms!

You can also take a look at our Sample Run-Time Log to get an idea of what your participants will see on their end.

8. Advertise!

Utilize your social media, email lists, sponsors and partners to push out advertisements for your race.

If you are on Facebook, be sure to make an event on your page for your race. Facebook events are great at getting the attention of runner/walkers and their friends/family. Be sure to invite everyone you know to your event on Facebook, you might get a few easy sing-ups!

Race Director Tip: In all of your social media posts and emails be sure to include the link to your registration website. This makes it easy for runners/walkers to get connected and sign-up for you race!

9. It's Not Over When It's Over