Voorhees runner completes virtual marathon

In the world of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual races become a reality

Special to The Sun

In the world of COVID-19, just about every aspect of life has been altered in recent weeks, including running.

Races and fundraisers of all kinds have been canceled and/or postponed in compliance with pandemic social distancing guidelines and recommendations from individual states and the federal government.

But runners have adapted to remain connected. Voorhees Township resident Miriam Gilbert has been running for the past 30 years. She has completed double-digit marathons, as well as countless 5Ks and other races, and although she’s been running for decades, there’s still a first time for everything.

She completed a virtual marathon in early April within her own development, running two loops around Lake Villa to complete the 26.2-mile race. The Virginia Blue Ridge Marathon was canceled earlier this year due to the pandemic, but participants were offered the opportunity to run in areas where they live and still earn a shirt and medal.

Gilbert was more than happy to run her first virtual marathon.

“I wasn’t surprised when it was canceled; all indicators were pointing towards that happening,” Gilbert said. “I had already trained for it since January and put my miles in … so when they offered it virtually, I took the opportunity to run around Lake Villa.”

Gilbert used her front lawn as an aid station when she needed water. Despite the limitations in a virtual race, she said the experience was exhilarating and, most of all, a challenge.

“Runners always love a challenge,” she noted.

Across the country, people have either continued to run or are just getting into the activity, as gyms stay closed and the weather warms. Gilbert feels the opportunity to compete in a virtual race can help people feel connected during social distancing. She wants her experience to inspire others to run, walk or just get more active in general.

“If a person is fortunate enough to live in an area where they’re allowed to go outside and run freely, they should take advantage,” Gilbert said. “There are plenty of people looking for that opportunity to race virtually, but for those newer runners, don’t be weekend warriors.

“Don’t sign up for races you might not be able to handle that could land you in the hospital in times like this.”