A medal recently awaited me in the mailbox – my reward for completing a 280-mile trek through the Grand Canyon.
It has a place on my bookshelf alongside medals commemorating my 21-mile swim across the English Channel, my 46-mile climb of Mount Fuji and my 1,084-mile hike across the United Kingdom with my sister – achievements all completed since November.
And I did everything without setting foot outside Indiana.
These virtual fitness challenges, offered by companies including My Virtual Mission have let me mentally escape my everyday surroundings, which have become all too familiar during the pandemic.
For many of the challenges, I received regular electronic postcards describing the latest landmark reached. Most routes provided a street view option, so when I checked my progress via an app, I could visualize myself in places such as the English countryside or in the Colorado River.
The challenge I participated in with my out-of-state sister gave us something new to bond over, and the time goals motivated me to run outside on chilly winter days when I wasn't comfortable returning to the gym.
Even after I return to the gym – which I expect will happen soon – I might sign up for a new challenge, perhaps the 124-mile stroll across Ireland or 149 miles across Australia.
But first, my sister and I have more than 1,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail to check off.