Virtual running challenges put the ‘magic’ back into training for Steph Bryant

Steph Bryant sees races as a means to an end, a way to challenge herself and stay motivated. She doubles down on motivation by inviting friends to train with her.

“I’ve been generally only motivated to run if I’m signed up fRacery Virtual Races - Runner - Steph Bryantor a road race and have to train for it,” says Bryant.

Having graduated over the years from 10ks to half marathons to marathons to ultras, Bryant was running out of goals to set and friends to pace herself against.

As Bryant put it in an article about her experience with our virtual races, “I paid for races to jump start my motivation, but eventually even shelling out $75 for a race was not enough to pressure me into exercising regularly. My well of joy for running had totally dried up.  After 5 years of hunkering down into my non-running funk, I finally discovered my magic bullet: virtual racing.”

Now Bryant is doing the ultimate ultra, a 4,000 mile virtual race from Disney World in Florida to Denali in Alaska, against two old friends.

“We’ve bet a plane flight on it,” she says.  

Bryant, who is  a grad student pursuing a Masters in Public Health at UNC Chapel-Hill, says that schoolwork and life have made it difficult to keep a regular training schedule. She likes that a virtual race that stretches over weeks lets her pick how far and often she runs.

She also likes that Racery’s optional teams making racing more inclusive. “I have family and friends who like to run, but they’re intimidated by people who run a lot. So by putting them on a team in a virtual race, they’re not intimidated.”

Bryant’s introduction to multi-week virtual races came in February of 2015, when a friend encouraged her to join a virtual race sponsored by Weaver Street Market food co-op to foster community among its customers. The virtual race spanned 105 miles around North Carolina highlighting local farms and artisan that the co-op buys from.

Bryant joined the race for motivation, excited that she knew some of the people in the race.

Then something weird happened — the race opened up a competitive streak and Bryant started running a lot more. “I’m not really a competitive person in real life, but I got really competitive with Racery,” she said.  The majority of the competition ended up being with racers who she didn’t know.

Her motivation was also stoked by optional Racery coaching emails that inquire every day at 5.30am and 4.30pm about her progress. “The emails remind me that I should probably go for a run,” says Bryant.

Once the Weaver Street virtual race was over, Bryant decided to start her own race as a way to stay in touch with long-distance friends.

“I’m not going to call my long-distance friends every day, but it’s still nice to stay in touch like this.” Racery allows Bryant to check in with her friends in Seattle whenever it’s convenient and there’s an automatic topic of conversation — right now it’s a bet about who will win the race from Florida to Alaska.

Single-day ultras are probably behind her, says Bryant. But not super distance racing. “It’s a lot easier to run 3 miles per day and try to get to Alaska, than trying to do it all in one try.” Still averaging 25.4 miles per week, @StephBryant has logged over 1,000 miles so far – 23% of the way there!

The best part about Racery’s virtual races according to Bryant: “You can run at whatever pace you want!”

Ready? Create your own race!