It’s been a bit since I ran my last marathon — mostly by personal choice, but I also had a nasty ankle break back in July. But I’m getting back on the pavement this year! 

My 2021 marathon looked a little different, however. It happened virtually! This was my first time running a virtual marathon and I wasn’t only excited to get back out there, I ran in honor of  BecomingX Foundation. I’ve run most of my 16 (!!) marathons for charity, and running for BecomingX was a special privilege. For anyone without a dedicated charity in mind for 2022, there’s a list of worthy causes you can pick from.

So, you might be wondering: How does a virtual marathon work? Starting at 12:01am London time on October 3rd, participants had 24 hours to complete 26.2 miles. There were over 40,000 people running through the streets of London that morning, with thousands of other participants mapping out their own courses all over the world. Everyone participating in the Virgin Money London Marathon had to download the event’s official app to track and log their runs. This app featured exclusive audio commentary from British athletes and Adele Radcliffe, a presenter at BBC Radio One. It also allowed you to share your location with two supporters so they could track your run throughout the day. 

Unlike traditional marathons, you were able to pause your marathon in the app as many times as you wanted if you needed to take breaks throughout the day. The only stipulation was that you had to complete the full 26.2 mile run in the 24 hours allotted to you. I think I am running every marathon I complete in the future “virtually” from now on!

Using technology can always be risky, but the London Marathon was prepared for that as well. If you were in a remote area and lost your GPS signal, you could keep running and log your distance and time on an alternative device, like a running app or a smart watch. If you didn’t complete the 26.2 miles in the app, a link took you to another page where you could log the information from your alternative device to prove you finished the course. And, of course, if you needed to drop out, you could do so through the app as well. 

Virgin Money London Marathon held their first virtual marathon in 2020 with much success, so I was so excited to be a part of their second virtual run. They had a finishing total of 37,966 people and were awarded an official Guinness World Records title for the ‘Most Users to Run a Remote Marathon in 24 Hours.’ 

If you’re curious to learn more about the 2021 Virtual Virgin Money London Marathon, you can check out their website, which features an FAQ section towards the bottom of the page. It answers questions about how this year’s event went, and what people can anticipate for next year’s London Marathon.