New York Road Runners is no stranger to hosting races. Along with organizing the largest marathon in the world, the TCS New York City Marathon, NYRR puts on over 50 events per year. However, due to spacing constraints and city permit requirements, NYRR must turn away thousands of runners who wish to participate in their sold-out races.
“The virtual race partnership with Strava helps us stay the most technologically advanced marathon in the world."
In order to meet high runner demand, NYRR partnered with Strava to launch a series of virtual races. “While we are experts in the running world, we are not a tech company,” noted Christine Burke, NYRR’s Vice President, Strategic Partnerships & Runner Products. “A virtual race platform made a lot of sense for us and Strava helped us make it a reality.”
Virtual racing eliminates most logistics necessary for race organizers, from chip timing services to water stations to security to portable toilets. Athletes simply join the virtual race on Strava, connect their NYRR account, and record a run wherever and whenever they like, as long as it meets the distance requirement and falls within the race period.
In addition to relief from on-the-ground logistics, race promotion became less of a burden on NYRR as well. With an athlete base of over 40 million members, Strava led digital marketing efforts that spoke to a primed audience and provided a substantial complement to NYRR's own communications.
“Strava’s international reach allows us to satisfy anyone who wants to run with us," said Burke. "33% of virtual race finishers were international, representing 106 countries along with all 50 states.
NYRR and Strava organized 10 virtual races in 2018, drawing over 25,000 finishers in the first year. Some were aligned with traditional races, such as the Virtual NYC 10K, which allowed runners to take part in the United Airlines NYC Half weekend. Others, like the Sunrise to Sunset 5K and GOOAAALLL 5K gave runners additional fun experiences and the chance to earn a digital finisher's badge to add to their Strava Trophy Case.
While most of the races were free to join, many athletes chose to pay in order to take part in the NYRR Virtual 6. This program enabled athletes to earn a guaranteed, non-complimentary entry into the Popular Brooklyn Half along with a virtual training program for the race. The scope of the partnership with Strava helped NYRR increase revenue as well as the frequency of touchpoints with runners.
The TCS NYC Marathon – Virtual 26.2M delivered a new and innovative take on the time tested endurance event. Runners had from November 1–4 to complete their virtual marathon. The incentive was high for the 500 global participants: finishers would receive guaranteed, non-complimentary entry into the 2019 TCS NYC Marathon. The race sold out in seven hours.
Runners from Australia were the first to finish, kicking off a wave of enthusiasm as others around the world woke up to a leaderboard buzzing with new results. Fellow virtual racers offered congrats and shared their own stories. Most runners tackled their virtual marathon solo, but many family members and friends surprised them with hand made signs and cheered them on as if they were on the course in New York City. Some runners even set new personal bests, motivated by a lifelong goal to gain entry into the NYC Marathon.
NYRR Virtual Racing Powered by Strava allowed people from across the world to participate in the NYRR community, access more events, and connect with fellow runners training toward similar goals.