Virtual run logo

A screenshot from Wolf Creek Race Management’s YouTube video promoting its Run Pennsylvania Virtual Challenge, which features different races of varying distances along routes across the Keystone State.

Strap on your running shoes and get ready to run from Presque Isle to the Mason-Dixon Line to the Delaware River — virtually, that is.

Wolf Creek Race Management, an organization that has arranged its share of physical races and 5Ks around the area in the past, is starting a new endeavor this summer in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic: the Run Pennsylvania Virtual Challenge.

The challenge, which began on June 1 and goes through July 31, is set up so that people can enter their runs or walks each day to track their progress on a virtual leaderboard and interactive map. There are three routes across the Keystone State to choose from, and the last day to register is July 14 — giving folks a bit more time to get in shape for a taxing running schedule.

The three routes are as follows: north to south, which is a 191-mile trek (3 miles per day, 22 a week) the length from Presque Isle to the Mason-Dixon Line; the east to west option, a 310-mile trip (5 miles per day, 35 a week) the length of the Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge to the Ohio Line; or the third, and most daunting, option for runners really looking to push themselves: the Ultra Challenge, the length from Presque Isle to the Delaware River in Philadelphia, a 522-mile (8.5 per day, 60 a week) adventure.

“This spring, we actually lined up for our busiest high school track timing we’ve ever had and then everything was canceled and the whole running industry was left to transition to virtual events,” Andrew Mascio, co-owner of Wolf Creek Race Management, told The Era this week. “Virtual races have been around for awhile, but never as big as they are now, and they give runners something fun and motivational to do.”

Mascio, who grew up outside of Pittsburgh and went to Grove City College, said that he’s heard from runners who are struggling to find the motivation to go out and run on their own without a way to track their times and compete against others.

“I know a lot of runners who are struggling with motivation because they don’t have a goal race or a time that they want to run,” he said. “This challenges them to go out and run everyday across Pennsylvania.”

The company’s website, https://wolfcreektrackclub.com/, lays out each of the three running plans, how to register, and a page to submit times and track results daily in a leaderboard-type format.

The plans range in cost from $30 to $60, with plenty of swag included for runners. For example, the east to west plan ($30) includes a custom finisher medal, Run PA bumper sticker, online results, a virtual bib number and a finisher certificate. The VIP plans add a 3-by-5 foot polyester PA state flag and a shirt.

There’s also a relay option, for $100, to tackle the 310-mile east to west route with up to three of your running partners.

All of those extra features were put in place by Mascio and WCTM to make the experience feel as much like an actual race as possible.

“All of the packages include a finisher medal, and we plan to hand those out at the end of competition,” Mascio said. “The hope is that runners will take a photo with their finisher medal and completed goal and post it on social media to be interactive.”

The money raised from each race will be spread among five different charities, including the Mount Jewett to Kinzua Bridge Trail Club. Mascio says that his organization has worked with that club in the past for “further development” on that trail and he knows of a few people who have already signed up for the virtual challenge through that club.

And for runners who are still seeking the physical thrill of competing in a race this summer, there may still be hope, according to Mascio. The inaugural Kinzua Half-Marathon and 10K at Kinzua Bridge State Park is still on as scheduled for July 26.

“We still plan on hosting that in late July and trying to make it fit current CDC and health guidelines,” Mascio said. “It still needs to be finalized and we will have to make changes to how it’s structured to meet the green phase standards. But we do plan on having it.”

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