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On your mark, get set, switch on your app and go!

Lululemon's virtual marathon SeaWheeze Virtual Run 2020. [LULULEMON]

Lululemon's virtual marathon SeaWheeze Virtual Run 2020. [LULULEMON]

Boston, Chicago, New York City, London and Berlin — these cities hold a special meaning for veteran marathoners as they play host to some of the biggest races in the world. As the unprecedented Covid-19 outbreak prolongs, it has troubled every runner to face continuous postponements of marathons due to one of the characteristics of a marathon being that it sees tens of thousands of people run in groups.  
 
But instead of canceling the annual events outright, marathon organizers are hosting virtual marathons as alternatives so that runners don't have to get together in one place, but rather can make their own routes and mark their records individually.  
 
The Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon that draws participants from all over the world, will be held virtually from Sept. 5 to 14 for the first time in 124 years since it was established in 1897 for those who originally entered the marathon scheduled for April this year. Spread across 96 countries, over 17,862 Boston Marathon Virtual Experience participants will run a 26.2-mile marathon anywhere they choose without a time limit. The Boston Athletic Association announced that there won’t be an official winner declared this year.  
 
Lululemon's virtual marathon SeaWheeze Virtual Run 2020. [LULULEMON]

Lululemon's virtual marathon SeaWheeze Virtual Run 2020. [LULULEMON]

Sports brand Lululemon recently hosted its annual running event — dubbed SeaWheeze Virtual Run 2020 — virtually from Aug. 15 to 23. Since 2011, the festival has gathered some 10,000 runners from all over the world every August in Vancouver, Canada, where Lululemon headquarters is based. This year, instead of Vancouver, some 50,000 half-marathon, or 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), runners participated virtually from more than 100 countries around the world.  
 
The method was simple. Using the GPS-based recording measurement application Strava, the user simply had to find "Lululemon SeaWheeze Virtual Half & 10km Marathon" from the menu, and choose either "Half Marathon" or the "10km" run. Every participant who recorded the run of their chosen distance within a week of applying was sent the finisher medal. As everyone runs at a different time and pace, the organizer of the event did not rank the runners and instead just recorded each runner’s time.  
 
Thirty-eight-year-old Choi Jeong-ah who participated in SeaWheeze Virtual Run ran 10 kilometers around Oksu-dong in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul, for about an hour from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Aug. 22.  
 
"As I was getting bored of running alone ever since the Covid-19 outbreak, I applied because I thought it would be fun to run together with others, even if it was virtual,” Choi said. "It was less burdensome than participating in a real marathon because I could choose when and where to run at my own will.”  
 
Previously, sports watch brand Garmin hosted the Garmin Virtual Run Forerunner Race from May 4 to 10 in which 1,350 people completed a 10-kilometer race. Using the GPS-based Garmin sports smartphone application, users could participate in a 10-kilometer run at any time and place that they wanted. Without having to download the app, Garmin GPS smartwatch users could mark their records just by running while wearing their Garmin watches. Within that period, the Garmin app provided real-time rankings while the runners renewed records.  
 
Marathoner Lee Hyun-sol's record of the Garmin Virtual Run Forerunner Race on May 10. [LEE HYUN-SOL]

Marathoner Lee Hyun-sol's record of the Garmin Virtual Run Forerunner Race on May 10. [LEE HYUN-SOL]

An experienced marathoner Lee Hyun-sol, 25, participated in the Garmin Virtual Run Forerunner Race on May 10 with her two friends. The group of runners chose the 10-kilometer route by the Han River from Dongjak Bridge to Banpo Bridge.  
 
Garmin's top 16 rankings for the Garmin Virtual Run Forerunner Race on May 10. [GARMIN]

Garmin's top 16 rankings for the Garmin Virtual Run Forerunner Race on May 10. [GARMIN]

"Normal marathons have spectators cheering on the runners. It was a shame that there wasn’t any of that because it was a virtual marathon. But running with others virtually had another taste,” Lee said. “The participants' records were broken in real time, so we could enjoy a thrilling race even though we weren't physically competing together.”  
 
RunDay app users shared their virtual marathon records through the RunDay app. [RUNDAY]

RunDay app users shared their virtual marathon records through the RunDay app. [RUNDAY]

HanbitSoft's running application, RunDay, conducted a virtual marathon on July 21 as a test for the Sohn Kee-chung Peace Marathon coming up in November, which chose to use the RunDay app for the event.  
 
The Sohn Kee-chung Peace Marathon is a representative amateur marathon in Korea that started in 2005 to commemorate Sohn Kee-chung, a gold medalist of the marathon event at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  
 
On July 21, 7 p.m., about 300 participants from all over the country started their 5-kilometer runs. Their records were compiled in real time through the GPS-based RunDay app, which provided real-time rankings. The app could identify participants who move in fraudulent ways, such as in cars or on electric kickboards.
 
Finisher certificate for Virtual Race 5K runners. [RUNDAY]

Finisher certificate for Virtual Race 5K runners. [RUNDAY]

For the Sohn Kee-chung Peace Marathon, each marathon route of the participants will be displayed on the app, RunDay said. Any RunDay app users can also send cheering messages with the sound of applause to the runners as virtual spectators of the virtual marathon.  
 
BY YOO JI-YOEN, KIM YEON-AH  [kim.yeonah@joongang.co.kr]

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