I realized a long time ago that if I want to stick with something, I have to set a goal. With the cancellation of so many races due to the pandemic, I was finding it hard to stay motivated to run with no specific race goal in mind. Enter the Criss-Cross Virtual Challenge! Tied to the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, this challenge provided exactly what I needed to keep moving through the late fall, winter, and early spring.
Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Criss-Cross Virtual Challenge to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.
The challenge provides three different options for both runners and walkers alike: Cover the horizontal distance of the State of Illinois by logging a total of 224 miles, the vertical length of the state (435 miles), or the combined total of the two (659 miles) between November 5, 2020 and May 1, 2021. Guess which one I chose? Go big or go home, right? I found the combined (Criss-Cross) distance to be very doable, having figured out that if I ran or walked an average of 4 miles per day, I would easily complete the challenge. A huge help to completing this challenge was the fact that we got a puppy in September. She was definitely a willing participant in helping me meet my goal!
One of the perks of joining this challenge included access to monthly webinars that could be watched live or any time that was convenient to me. Given my crazy work schedule, the option to view these informative sessions at my own convenience was a perfect fit for me. Topics included fun facts about the State of Illinois (considering I’ve lived here my entire life, I found out just how little I knew about my own home state), safe running tips, and ‘predictions’ from the race directors about what running in 2021 might look like. We also received these awesome guidebooks that highlighted the towns we would virtually visit along the West to East route from East Hannibal to Danville, Illinois and the North to South route from South Beloit to Cairo, Illinois. I was genuinely surprised by how many of these towns I had never heard of, and I’ve added a number of them to my ‘places to visit’ list!
It was very easy to log my miles using the Race Roster platform. I do regret getting lazy in the end and not logging my miles on a daily basis. I had a lot of catching up to do in the final months of the challenge, but luckily we received an extension that gave us an additional month to log our miles. I definitely took advantage of that.
One of the things I loved about this challenge is that it included weather for all seasons. There were days I ran in shorts and a tank, and others where I slowly trudged through 6-inch deep snow wearing a down coat. Another thing I loved about this challenge was the awesome swag we received! Since I participated in the full challenge, I received a very nice 3/4 zip long sleeved shirt, a beanie, a face mask, a nuun hydration tablet, and an awesome finisher’s souvenir coin.
So the big question is…how did I do? I’m happy to say I completed the challenge, and then some. By mid-January I was done with the West-East route, so I knew I would have plenty of time to get the miles in for the North-South route and in fact, I exceeded those miles by 156 miles, for a grand total of 815.42 miles!
Now that the challenge is complete, I really have nothing negative to say about it. Obviously most of us couldn’t truly trek across an entire state, so this was a very fun alternative that really kept me motivated for a full six months. And now that in-person races are starting to be offered again, I feel like I didn’t miss a step (virtual or otherwise) in keeping a good base for when the ‘real’ training begins. I will definitely be looking at this challenge again later this year.
Have you ever participated in a six month long virtual challenge? Let me know how you liked it!
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On my 2021/2022 Race Calendar:
October 10, 2021: Chicago Marathon
March 6, 2022: Tokyo Marathon