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High Country Running: A virtual series with real benefits

High Country Running: A virtual series with real benefits

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Laurie and James McDonald from Phoenix visited Flagstaff to run the virtual Randy Wilson Memorial 4 on the Fourth on the actual course in July. Many Flagstaff races are going virtual this year.

While I hoped we would see one another in person during our beloved Flagstaff Summer Series, COVID-19 continues to spread across Arizona. To do our part in protecting everyone’s health, we are prioritizing safety and moving these events to a virtual platform.

We hope you’ll join us for the Flagstaff Virtual Series, which you can run either on-course or anywhere during each race’s open period.

Those who have loved coming out year after year know the Flagstaff Summer Running Series is a great value. Aside from its priceless benefits of boosting health, creating social networks and cultivating camaraderie, it bolsters nonprofits vital to our communities.

Since virtual racing is GPS-based, results will be on the honor system. This format won't allow us to calculate series standings for the 2020 season, but we do have some great series motivators.

Thanks to Caleb Schiff, series registrants will be entered into the Pizzicletta Challenge: participate in four of six races (not including Kids Dashes) to win a pizza. Run any six virtual races to earn the first-ever Flagstaff Virtual Series Medal, courtesy of Northland Hospice and a grant from Unisource. (The Randy Wilson Memorial 4 on the Fourth also counts toward the medal.) Finally, NATRA LLC and Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, are providing all participants the spiffy new series Sweatvac Shapeshifter neck gaiter.

Each race will have its own special nuances and giveaways. Many races will provide the free RaceJoy app option, allowing you and friends to live track, send cheers and record run times. And from each race’s RunSignup webpage, printing your custom race bib and finisher’s certificate and uploading results and personal photos will be easy.

The 2020 modified lineup adds two exciting new races to the series. The virtual package will include an entry into the Soulstice Mountain Trail Run, 12- and 6.4-mile courses. It’s usually limited to 225 runners, but this year anyone can run Soulstice and support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff mentoring programs for children. The second newcomer will be the first-ever Campbell Scramble 10K, 5K and kids runs on an all-time favorite, the Campbell Mesa trails. This is a Run Flagstaff production, with a beneficiary to be announced.

Both long and short course 2020 Flagstaff Virtual Series six-race packages are $180 ($150 for students younger than 18). The kids races are $50. The series is an overall exceptional value, but individual races will also be open for registration by Aug. 1.

Virtual racing is sweeping the country like a benevolent force. I hope the Flagstaff Virtual Series inspires us all to embrace fitness and honor our competitive instincts, while supporting local nonprofit services that are perhaps more important than ever. Join us in shaping history!

Neil Weintraub has been voluntarily coordinating the Flagstaff Summer Series for the past 16 years. He thanks Gail Hughes and Sara Wagner for their deep thoughts about this column!

Send your local running news to coordinating editor Julie Hammonds (


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