I Ran My Fastest 5k, but Does It Even Count?

We’ve all heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I thought about this when I recently ran my fastest 5k but it was a virtual race. Normally I haven’t been into virtual races but I chose to run this one because I saw there was going to be swag bags to the first 350 registrants, a virtual leaderboard, and virtual awards at the conclusion. Competitive? Me? Perhaps.

That brings me back to my thoughts about my “race” time. Both Garmin and Strava show my time for the 3.1 (actually 3.11) miles that I ran, but because I live in North Carolina where our COVID numbers aren’t that great compared to other states and we still aren’t allowed to have in-person races yet, this was a run, not a race. Or was it?

What defines a race? Swag? Check. An official course? Nope. Chip-timed? Nope. Other people running at the same time you are? Sort of; they weren’t running with me, but there were plenty of other people running, walking, and biking on the same greenway where I ran that morning. A leaderboard with results? Check. Awards? Check. A specific day and time that the race starts and ends? Not even close since people have the whole month of September to run 3.1 miles and record their times.

Even though a lot of boxes are checked, I’m not sure I would call this a race for one simple reason: there were no other runners with the sole intention of running 3.1 miles on the same exact course that I was running that day and time. To me, it was still just a run.

Catching my breath after I finished my 5k/3.11 run

It’s a shame really that I can’t claim this 5k as my fastest 5k ever, despite the fact that my watch claimed it was my fastest 5k when I saved the run. It does make me want to go out and run an official 5k just so it’s “official.” Well, kinda. To be honest, running this 5k was HARD. I had to mentally push from about 1.5 miles until I finally reached 3.1 miles. By the end I had a side stitch as well, which I never get. I’m not sure I want to suffer like that again.

Then again, who knows? Maybe once races start back again I will sign up for an official 5k just to prove to myself I can do it again, on an official course that’s chip-timed, with other people on the same course as me, starting at the same time as me. Even if I don’t finish quite as fast as I did for this virtual 5k or run or whatever you want to call it, I will know it “counts.”

How do you stand on virtual races? Love them/hate them/indifferent? Have you gotten any PR’s during virtual races you’ve done?

Happy running!


Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US, which I completed in 2021. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

23 thoughts on “I Ran My Fastest 5k, but Does It Even Count?”

  1. I have bookmarked about a dozen different virtual races, thinking I will sign up and just do one, maybe blog about it, see what I really think after I’m done. But I keep running up against a mental block of them not really being a true race, and then I start thinking about spending the money on a pseudo-race experience especially if I’m running where I always run, etc. Suffice to say, I’ve been sitting on the fence about whether to do one or not. BUT, I say if you have proof that you ran your fastest 5K, then that’s one for the books, and you know you will be competing against yourself again and again, knowing that number in your head, so it is a part of your racing history. Good job!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I know what you mean about spending money to run where you always run anyway. It’s a tough thing to sort through. I’ve heard from a lot of runners who have run virtual races and the primary draw for them has been to help raise money for charity. I did a virtual race back when the fires were raging in Australia but I didn’t even try to push myself for that one since my drive was simply to help raise money. I think it puts you in a different mindset if there are no age group awards or even leaderboards.


  2. A local running studio has been hosting virtual 5k races over zoom. I got a PR and I still can’t in my head count it as one as it still didn’t feel like a real race. I am hoping it at least gives me some confidence to try and PR a live in person half marathon I have next weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel you. I just ran a virtual race and it was just another run. Nothing can take the place of the feeling you have right before the horn sounds or the feeling in those last few meters when you see the finish line with the crowd cheering.

    Races are on the top of my list of “to dos” when we get back to normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I say an personal best is a personal best, no matter what. Once, several years ago, I did a 3-minute plank. The only person to see it was the athletic instructor at the Jamaican resort we were staying at. She timed me. I always look back on that with pride (mixed with depression that I probably couldn’t pull that off today).

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  5. I totally understand what you mean. In my case I now do my Piloxing exercises alone with the help of YouTube. But I need to persevere so that I could get my exercises. Good luck on your future virtual run, Donna. 🙂 — Amor

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  6. I personally think that if you run the actual mileage and you’re using a GPS, it’s a PR. At the very least a PB. I know that others don’t agree with me.

    I’ve done virtual races because it either supports a cause important to me or has some nice swag I want to earn. Like the RBG tee. 🙂 Which of course isn’t even a race, it’s a mileage challenge & it probably isn’t really a challenge for me because I don’t think it’ll be hard to run & walk 87 miles in a little over a month.

    When I run them, though, I’m not racing. I’m pushing a little harder than I would on a normal run, but not as hard as a race. So no, definitely no PRs for me at all in 2020.

    Nice job! 5ks are definitely hard & I’m signed up for a virtual one in November — and no, not a turkey trot. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Given you tracked it with a GPS I say it counts as a pr! I mean think of races where your gps may come up .1 or .2 off maybe because you hugged a corner tighter, if it was a 5k race and your official time was a pr then you would count it right?!?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. For me it doesn’t count. Basically because I’m picking my own route. Not the race route. I also can’t get motivated to race them. I wish I could. But everyone feels differently. So you can definitely count them as PRs.

    Congrats to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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