Why Virtual Ultras Don't Count

Listen to the dog.

I'm gonna piss on a live wire and talk about why Virtual Ultras Don't Count.


Prior to 2020 a virtual ultra was a distant-fringe idea, like "running to the moon", kid you not. Then 'Rona exploded in the USA thanks to criminal incompetence, magical thinking, short-term Trumpian graft and corruption, and demonization of actual science that might've gotten a handle on things. All public sporting events died.

Suddenly, we entered the age of Virtual Ultras. This was an understandable response by RD's who's events were suddenly cancelled, and by runners who needed to compete in something, anything.

Gary Cantrell's The Virtual Great Race Across Tennessee was a surprise winner in this category with an estimated 19,000 entrants.

Pros & Cons 

Virtual ultras enable people who might not have done an ultra, to motivate, train, and bond with others looking to find their way out of a black hole. A real positive example is Jason Green's Yeti Trail Runners that have hosted/enabled a series of these. 

I first met Jason back in 2017 when I DNF'd Cruel Jewel 50. He gave me a 40mi ride back to the start, and we were Comedy Dozens on all kinds of deserving ultra-dicks. Part of his mission is encouraging people who are justifiably put off by the glitter-baton elitism of the Ultra Kool Kids celebrated by Insta and Twitter.

Now the Bad News

Here's a virtual ultra, in a previous bardo-state.


Virtual ultras lack accountability. You can take lush intervals, with hot showers and comfy beds. Its a "cum as you are, go as you please" scenario.

Furthermore, virtuals do not account for elevation, terrain, weather etc of the original event.

Like a hanging, nothing focuses the mind like cutoffs. One after the other. 

Last January I did a 50k, finished *30 seconds* after official cutoff. I was ready for the "sorry, bro", but RD Keira let me slide as there were 3 others out there behind me. It was a cascade of mistakes, the last two jerking off in late aid-stations.

Back in late 2014 I finished the San Juan Trail 50k in 8:10"—10 min past cutoff. RD Baz was "where the fuck have you been?" in his patented Aussie patois. It was a beatdown in weather that had gone from bad to worse. I caught a ride back to my frozen campsite, got sort-of cleaned up, and crashed. I was bummed and sorely reminded that my training had been sub-par.

Virtuals don't do that. 

I look forward to the day when we can go back to actual ultras. We'll all be better for it.


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