Another virtual race? DC-area distance runners try to make it more exciting

A group of competitive runners have grown tired of the “new normal” of virtual charity races brought on by coronavirus pandemic, so they decided to do something about it.

The Cannonball Run Challenge was created by runner Mike Wardian of Arlington, Virginia, and Daniel Liechty, chief experience officer and owner of Old Dominion Racing in Herndon, Virginia. It’s a unique virtual race that will probably take you months to complete — if you ever finish.

“It’s 2,966 miles,” said Liechty. “The more we talked to people the less they’re willing to do virtual races, and there’s nothing else to really challenge them right now.”

Considering the challenge is so many miles long, there’s no way anyone signing up would finish it in one turn. But the beauty of this challenge is you can count any of your runs — both outdoor and on the treadmill — as well as any bike rides, or even just the walking around you do toward that goal.

“It’s something you can do anywhere in the world … especially in these difficult times,” said Wardian. “This is an opportunity for people to have something to train for. You can run anywhere on basically any type of surface. We even have a trail-only category.”

You can go solo or team up with some friends. The miles you run or bike — which you are probably counting with a fitness tracker if you’re into this — then gets uploaded to the Cannonball Race Challenge’s app.

Liechty said the app “calculates how far you’ve traveled or your group has traveled, and then it finds the closest point on the route and it allocates your icon on that point … so then when you go look at the web page you can actually see where you are on the route.”

He said “there’s a big map of the whole U.S. and it has a route that goes across it and has every single individual that’s participating on the same map.”

The race started back in September and runs until Sept. 1, 2021.

If you are starting at this point, you are probably not going to be the first to win. Right now, the leaders are almost through Nebraska on their way to Los Angeles.

But the point is not to be the first to go. It’s just to keep you motivated to keep training.

“It’s a good compliment to your training,” said Wardian. “It’s a good reason to get out the door. It’s a good way to connect to the community. I think that’s the biggest thing; is to have a group of people that you’re in league with trying to stay motivated during these hard times.”

Those who sign up for the challenge will receive a free commemorative T-shirt and mask; those who finish the challenge will be awarded a finisher’s medal.

The race has a charitable aspect too; part of the registration fee will be sent to a GoFundMe account set up for Tommy Rivers Puzey, who is well-known in the running community. Puzey is currently battling an aggressive form of cancer.

You have until the end of the year to sign up.

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