It was an ordinary July night. We were having our usual Skype date since my wife is based in Singapore and I am working in Manila.
She caught the running bug earlier that year. She was very enthusiastic in joining more runs in Singapore.
During our conversation, she mentioned that she plans to join virtual race.
I asked her what is virtual race?
She explained the mechanics. Participants will run at their own time and place and will submit the records of their run to the organizers. After verifying their runs, the runners will receive their entitlements.
Doing more Google searches, I learned that virtual races have been long established particularly in the United States. They are being held to support charities and causes.
I convinced my wife that there should be similar events in the country. It took several days to finally persuade her that we should organize it in the Philippines to support different charities. At that time, NO ONE in the Philippines is organizing virtual races yet.
On August 02, 2016, I sent a Facebook message to Joric. He is my colleague, a certified mamaw runner, known to the running community as the @RedCapGuy and owner/operator/designer of Fit Feet’s Feats (FFF) medal hangers.
I asked Joric if he is interested to organize virtual races. I explained the Vision, Mission and Objectives of the organization.
Our objectives are 1) to MOTIVATE our fellow runners to run 2) to ADVOCATE for charities and causes and 3) to CELEBRATE our runners’ achievements. With these goals in mind, VirtualRacePH was born.
READY, GET SET, GO!?!
We hit the ground running after Sofitel Manila Half-Marathon 2016. It was rainy Sunday morning. While having our recovery breakfast at Jollibee, we started planning.
We initially thought of giving medals as finisher’s entitlements since this is the main appeal of other virtual races overseas. Upon realizing what Filipino runners want, we decided to include finisher shirts as well.
We know WHO we are, WHAT we want to do and WHY we are organizing virtual races. The more challenging question is HOW are we going to do it?
We need to find suppliers. We need to establish the system. We need to find partners. More importantly, we need to reach our fellow runners.
It was not easy. We invested so much time and resources to make things happen.
True to our goal of motivating our fellow runners, we agreed that the registration fee should be EQUITABLE, CHARITABLE and SUSTAINABLE.
We do not want to charge too much since it will discourage runners from participating. It will also defeat the purpose of VirtualRacePH. We want to bring back the good old days of running when registration fee is not expensive and more accessible to everyone.
At the same time, we want to GIVE MORE to charities by donating significant portion of the proceeds.
We also want VirtualRacePH to improve its operation. Finding the sweet spot in terms of pricing is truly a balancing act.
We decided that registration fees should be less than Php 1,000. With this REASONABLE price, we can give our runners high quality finisher shirts, fancy medals they will surely love and free delivery within the Philippines. We can also DONATE SUBSTANTIAL amount to our partner charities.
After our first event and learning the secrets of the trade, we were at a better position to negotiate with our suppliers to deliver on schedule, to meet our quality standards and costing requirements and to provide better entitlements to our runners.
Establishing the system is the most challenging part!
How can runners register? How can we verify their runs? We have GRAND things in mind but we were pressed for time and had LIMITED resources.
I needed to learn immediately how to develop the website or else we cannot push through with our inaugural event.
After watching some YouTube videos, VirtualRacePH.com went online on December 19, 2016. It was a very exciting time for us. After countless sleepless nights and spending my weekends in front of the computer, we finally had our first registered participant.
But then again, the excitement was short lived. We hit our first road bump. We hit it REALLY HARD!
Within hours of opening for registration, the website CRASHED. We did not know what to do and honestly I panicked. Scary thoughts were running in my head. Maybe someone was hacking our website. Later on we found out that our server cannot handle the amount of traffic.
It was the first of several instances of offline website. Good thing the VirtualRacePH community stick with us during our BAPTISM OF FIRE. We also had the reliable support of Sir Kons and Abdon.
I never thought that finding partner charity can also be challenging.
We experienced our first heartbreak when we approached a well-known international NGO as our possible partner for Tindog Surigao. After sending our proposal and waiting for several weeks, NOTHING HAPPENED.
“Alam mo yung feeling na pinaasa ka lang at wala rin pa lang patutunguhan lahat ng ginagawa mo?”
After this setback, we learned our lesson. We only partner with less bureaucratic organizations and with direct impact and involvement to the community.
As much as we want to help everyone, we decided to support organizations more than individual needs. This is to maximize the assistance we can provide and to have a sustainable programs that can truly make a difference to the greater number of beneficiaries.
Reaching out to the runners is equally challenging. While Joric and I have been running for years, we were confined within our respective groups.
After deciding that we will establish VirtualRacePH, we immediately created various social media accounts to interact with our fellow runners.
As of today, VirtualRacePH has Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. We also manage various groups in Strava, Garmin and Facebook. This is on top of thousands of daily hits from our website and numerous interactions from email, text messages, phone calls and Facebook messages.
We had a mere target of only 200 runners for our first event in 21 Day Challenge. We were pleasantly surprised to exceed our initial target and had more than 500 runners to join the “Run for Charity”.
Never did we imagine that from a 4-member core group, we will be growing to thousands of runners all over the Philippines and all over the world.
More than the number of runners, we are very proud of the caring community we help to establish. We can humbly say that VirtualRacePH runners have LEGS for running and HEARTS for giving.
This community has been supportive and inclusive to all type of runners. Whether you are newbie or veteran, pabebe or mamaw, you are welcome to join. You can feel the encouragements and motivations from your fellow runners. It is very inspiring to be part of this group – you can inspire others and be inspired as well.
LABOR OF LOVE
We may give the impression that VirtualRacePH is being run by a company. The truth is, it is a PART-TIME endeavor with FULL-TIME commitment.
Joric and I are working as design verification engineers. Marie, my wife, is a software developer. Abby, Joric’s wife, is a full-time homemaker while running 2 online businesses namely Fit Feet’s Feats and Amoire de Soleil.
The founders are hands-on from conceptualizing the event, to advocating for partner charities, to finding potential sponsors, to creating marketing collaterals, to designing runner’s entitlements, to managing the website, database and suppliers, to answering thousands of inquiries via email, text, call, Facebook messages and all possible mediums to get in touch with us, to processing the payments, to verifying the runs, and up to packing and shipping the finishers shirts and medals.
Everything we do in VirtualRacePH is LABOR OF LOVE (because we do not have staffs to do it for us ^_^).
It is very challenging, tiring and sometimes (or most of the times) very demanding but we take pride in what we do!
It is very inspiring and heartwarming to hear different stories of challenges, success and triumphs whether in running or in other aspects of life.
This is what keeps us going! Knowing in our own little way, we are MAKING A DIFFERENCE in the lives of fellow runners and in the lives of our partners and beneficiaries.
FROM PASSION TO COMPASSION
From the beginning, VirtualRacePH has never been and will never be a business.
While it is tempting and easy for us to charge higher fees, knowing that runners will join anyways, it will go against the very nature and core foundation of VirtualRacePH.
Our vision is to become the premier virtual race organizer in the country while supporting charities and causes. This is in line with our mission to establish a community of runners who love running, care for others and can make a difference.
In everything that we do and in every decision that we make, we always align ourselves with our vision, mission and objectives.
VirtualRacePH is a social enterprise. We organize virtual races in so far as it has target beneficiaries. We do not organize virtual races for the sake of making money out of it. It is true that we gain some monetary rewards but is MERELY A FRACTION of what we give to our partner charities and a fraction of what we earn from our full-time professions. Our HEARTS are always BIGGER than our wallet <3.
Personally, VirtualRacePH is a means for me to pay-it-forward. I have been a recipient of so much generosity and it is but natural for me to give back. I was able to finish my college education through various aids and supports. Hence, educational causes and charities are very close to my heart. I believe that with proper education, everyone can succeed in life no matter where they started.
As a community, we just NOT donate cash. We ENABLE the dreams of scholars and school children to have a better life for them and their families. We SUPPORT environmental causes and spread awareness to protect the world we live in. We HELP those in dire needs and those suffered from natural calamities and man-made disasters. We are making REAL DIFFERENCE.
Ultimately, VirtualRacePH is a bridge from the PASSION of runners to COMPASSION for others. And like what we always say, with your support, together we can make a difference one run at a time.
LEADING THE REVOLUTION!
2017 has been a year of adjustment in the country’s running scenes. While we lost highly anticipated events like Run United Trilogy and Skyway Marathon, we are happy to pioneer virtual races in the Philippines.
In the future, we foresee that more runners will join virtual races and more groups will organize these kinds of events. We are glad to have been instrumental in making these positive changes in the Philippine running community. We are proud to take a lead in offering alternatives to traditional organized running events.
We will also be more than delighted if other virtual race organizers will support charities and causes. In this way, they will play a role in the REALIZATION of our vision.
Having more players in organizing virtual races will make the environment healthier and more competitive. It will give runners more options. It ensures that virtual races will continuously improve and become more accessible.
Gone are the days when you CANNOT AFFORD the registration fees.
Gone are the days when you have to wake up TOO EARLY and travel TOO FAR to join running events.
Gone are the days when charities and causes only receive TINY PORTION of the proceeds.
Indeed, VirtualRacePH has LED THE REVOLUTION in the Philippine running scene.
ARE YOU PART OF THE REVOUTION?
This entry was written by VirtualRacePH Co-Founder Archie Dolit. Published on August 13, 2017.