The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out sporting events worldwide this year, with weekend warriors in Singapore particularly hard hit by the halting of mass runs which attract thousands weekly.
But the flip side is that virtual racing has since taken off in a big way, with many landmark races, such as the annual The Straits Times Run, converting into the ST Virtual Run.
With the ST Virtual Run kicking off on Friday with the 17.5km race, here's what you need to know about virtual racing:
WHAT IS A VIRTUAL RACE?
A virtual race is a race where a runner can complete a targeted distance through running or walking from anywhere he wants, without the need to gather at a specified place and time, unlike conventional races.
Individuals who are afraid of running or walking with crowds in conventional races but want to contribute and be part of this charity movement, would be able to take this chance.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF TAKING PART IN A VIRTUAL RACE?
First, a virtual race may serve as motivation for individuals to work towards a goal (completing or achieving a timing for the particular distance). Non-runners can use this as a starting point to begin their running journey towards leading an active lifestyle.
Second, they have the flexibility to start their race-day routine anywhere, any time.
Participants who may feel nervous or anxious on race day will have the freedom to clock their mileage when they feel ready within a given period.
Runners do not have to get up at pre-dawn hours, travel to faraway places or be worried about being late at the starting line.
They also have the luxury of avoiding the long toilet queues before a live race.
Virtual races are usually held over a period of time instead of a fixed date. If they are feeling under the weather or there is a bad weather forecast, they have the option to start their race another day within the stipulated period and complete the challenge in the conditions that suit them.
Third, virtual races are cheaper to enter than live races.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF DOING A VIRTUAL RACE?
First, there is no appointed fixed route for the targeted distance, which means participants have to plan their own route.
Participants starting out on their running journey may not be familiar with the routes available and may end up feeling discouraged.
For virtual races, distance markers are not available as a guide for runners without GPS watches or those who dislike carrying their mobile phones with them.
There are also no water stations at fixed markers and runners have to plan their own water stops along the route.
Second, there are no emergency services and ambulance staff on standby along the route.
Participants may need to plan their run time when there may be some crowds to assist in times of emergency.
Third, the race experience - from race-pack collection to race-day running (competing with other racers, having pacers on site, live cheering from friends and family members as they race to the finish line), post-race massage, the food and live-music ambience - is absent.
Roads will not be closed for their convenience. If they want to run without disruption from traffic, they will likely have to run through the city or gardens.
And their race moments - from fun times to epic moments - will not be captured by official race photographers.
- Loh Guo Pei is a former national athlete and certified coach who trains the New Balance Running Club. Follow this series over the next few weeks as he shares tips on tackling The ST Virtual Run's 175km distance.