The year of 2021 began just as virtually as 2020 ended. My friend Sabina and I decided to try to lift our spirits during the Corona pandemic by virtually participating in a race and traveling to Ireland at the same time. We registered for The Conqueror Virtual Challenge on January 11, 2021. We have each since then done 200 kilometers of running, walking and cross-country skiing. We did this on our own here in Sweden but we were virtually together and virtually took a famous tourist route in the southwest of Ireland called The Ring of Kerry.
Signing up for this virtual race cost about 30 Euros per person. For that amount, you get login information for an app that you download as well as a finisher medal. A customs fee of 83 SEK was added for the medal which was sent to Sweden from the USA. The app can easily be connected to a running watch – which I did – or you can enter the workouts manually afterwards – which Sabina did. If you connect the app to the running watch, you can set which activities you want transferred to the app. You can choose to add all the steps you walk in one day.
Sabina and I did not transfer all our steps but concentrated on the exercise, in our case mainly walking and cross-country skiing. When registering, you also state how long time you think you´ll need to complete the race. This can be changed during the course of the race.
The app shows a map and marks where you are. It is possible to select “street view”, which gives you those stunning views of southwestern Ireland.
It is easy to see in the app how much of the race has been covered and how much is left. Sabina used a function in the app where she added her own photo after each distance where there is also space for descriptive texts.
There were five milestones along the route. When reaching a milestone, we were notified that a tree would be planted in order to help restore healthy forests.
A number of times we received postcards by email for us to forward to family and friends to let them know about our adventure. In addition, there was quite a lot of information about places we passed, both historical facts and information about interesting activities you can do as a tourist in the area. Along the Ring of Kerry there are breathtaking views of mountains, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. There are so many things to see and places to visit, for example a stone circle from the Bronze age perfectly aligned with the sun, castle ruins, sandy beaches and a chocolate factory.
Both Sabina and I enjoyed virtually finding our way on the beautiful small roads near lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike me, Sabina has visited Ireland before. She stayed in Belfast and she also traveled around the island but not as far south as the Ring of Kerry. Sabina loves nature by the ocean so those were her favorite parts of the Ring of Kerry. She also loved the quaint villages where you felt like just popping into a pub for a pint of Guinness. I felt the same and I also thought it was exciting to pass the small village of Portmagee where there are boat trips to the beautiful remote island of Skellig Michael which was a filming location for scenes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
The fact that we have now virtually experienced The Ring of Kerry has inspired us even more to travel to Ireland when the Corona pandemic is over. We both thought about how lovely it would be to walk the same distance as we did in the app and stay in the cozy little inns and guesthouses along the way. Apart from the Ring of Kerry, there are so many other parts of Ireland that we want to visit. I have a trip to Dublin booked which I am looking forward to and Sabina would like to see the northern parts of Ireland again. She has mentioned the beautiful Giant´s Causeway as one of her dream destinations in Ireland to revisit.
We concluded that the app was helpful as a motivator. It was more fun to go outdoors when you could come home later and enter your kilometers in the app, or look at what the watch had transmitted to the app and see our location on the map. From January to March, it was too slippery and cold for me to run here in Sweden and both Sabina and I felt that we needed extra motivation to take long walks outdoors. In addition to walking, we did cross-country skiing.
Sabina and I both thought this was a fun experience. We were virtually together and we were virtually in Ireland. We both thought it was worth the cost of 30 Euros.
It’s always a great feeling to reach the finish line and to complete a challenge. When I had finished this particular race, I was actually sad that it was over. We have received advertising for new challenges as there are many more races within The Conqueror Virtual Challenge concept. Unfortunately, there are no other races in Ireland. We might broaden our views, though. Sabina has mentioned that there is a Kilimanjaro race that sounds exciting. I’m up for it! As long as we don´t have to run or walk the whole race uphill!
Finishing a race with a medal is actually great fun.