Virtual Races Are Fueling Runner’s Spirits

March 31, 2021  |  Permalink

Tennessee State Parks Virtual Races

Written by Emily Welker, a staff member of the Tennessee State Parks Run Club.

In early 2020, as we headed into the spring season, we didn’t realize the races we ran in January and February would be some of the last in-person events we would complete for awhile. In the middle of March, everyone was told to stay at home. Being alone can be tough on our mental and physical health. However, we still had access to the great outdoors and the benefits that being in nature provides. Tennessee State Parks started welcoming more visitors across the state as people searched for an outlet to refresh and recharge their minds and bodies.

People wanted to get out of their houses, and the outdoors provided that escape. Naturally, runners were able to escape to their happy place either on a paved path or a trail. However, we still couldn’t hold large in-person races. This is when we started to explore the possibility of holding virtual races. From honey bees to recycling efforts, races at Tennessee State Parks support a variety of causes that still needed support. The drive to provide this support coupled with the need to cancel in-person events led to the question of "how?". Despite the barriers, surely there was a way to support our programs. That's when we knew that virtual races could be the answer we were searching for.

In April 2020, the idea of the Honey Bee Virtual 5K started to come to life. We had the platform to host virtual races, we knew how to host a race, and we had a program worth supporting. With World Bee Day in May, we knew we could have a fun race to support the Tennessee State Parks’ Honey Project. The buzz about the virtual race spread quickly in just a month. Over 500 participants ran in neighborhoods, parks, and on treadmills to raise over $2,000 for the Honey Project! It was a huge success for all of us because, in the middle of a pandemic, we were able to find a sense of togetherness.

Since the Honey Bee Virtual 5K, Tennessee State Parks has hosted eleven virtual races, all of them supporting programs in our parks. We have heard numerous success stories and how these races have helped people cope with the effects of staying at home. David Crockett’s run club coach, Dennis Green, shared with us how the virtual races impacted him and his team. “I will be honest when we first started having to do them, I hated virtual races! However, that changed with Ramble’s Recycle Run 5K. I had a new run club member and his mom wanting to do their very first 5K. They didn’t want to do it with a lot of people around and they were concerned about not wanting to be last and how they would finish. I told them about this virtual race and they loved the idea. So, on November 14, 2020, we headed out to David Crockett State Park. The three of us completed the race and they tied for first place. They were very excited and loved receiving their race swag in the mail.” 

Tennessee State Park's virtual races have opened the door for people across the country to find community and run beside their fellow participants in spirit. As we move towards in-person races once again, we hope to continue offering virtual races so everyone has an opportunity to participate and support programs at Tennessee State Parks.

We are always looking for more participants to join in the fun, so keep an eye on the Tennessee State Parks Run Club Facebook page for upcoming events virtually or at a park near you.


Upcoming Races

Honey Bee 5K | Virtual Race

Join Tennessee State Parks as we celebrate World Bee Day on May 20th by doing a virtual 5K! The race kicks off when you are ready to go on any day between May 15th and May 22nd. A portion of the proceeds from this virtual 5K will benefit our Tennessee State Park Honey Project, which helps establish honey bee hives in state parks across the state. The registration fee is $20. This fee includes a virtual bib, a finishers medal, and a certificate for donating to the Tennessee State Park Honey Project.


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