Running for the love of running is fun but it’s nice to set a goal and test it once in a while. Until we get back to in-person racing a virtual race is a good option. Here are some suggestions about how to get the most out of your virtual race experience.
Choose your Event
Pick an event that interests you and commit to it. There are lots of virtual events available. They fall into three general categories.
- Existing races that have gone virtual or added a virtual event
These allow you to support an event you have done in the past or to be part of an event that you would not be able to do in the “real” world. If you want your favorite event to come back post COVID-19 support the virtual version now.
- Virtual races which are brand new and were invented post COVID-19.
Some of these have great swag and support some great causes.
- Virtual challenges and long-distance events.
These are less about racing and more about completing a challenge over a longer period of time. You can run or walk across a country, complete various tasks on your runs, or visit famous landmarks in a virtual kind of way. A couple of examples The CMTR Summer Scavenger Hunt and Conqueror Camino de Santiago
Join the Social Bandwagon
No matter what type of virtual event you choose. if they have a Facebook group or other social media platform available, join it. The experience is better if you can share it with other people and many of these events include people from all over the world.
Make a Team
If the option is available and you can talk your friends into it, form a team. Manny of the long-distance challenges have this option and doing things as a group is more fun and motivating, even if the group is online.
Running a Virtual Race
Pick a Date
The time frame available to run virtual events varies dramatically. Some events give you months to complete the event others limit you to a 24-hour period. When you commit to an event pick a date and commit to it. If it’s an option, have a back-up date in case mother nature turns against you. The advantage to virtual races is that you don’t have to run in the rain, snow or the heat!
Plan a Route
Plan a route and test it out. There are several apps/ sites that allow you to plan a running route including: Garmin Connect, MapmyRun and Strava (paid version only). They are a good place to start. You can base your route on one of your regular running routes or look for something new. Here are some things to consider:
- Minimize the need to cross the road. You can stop your watch when you get stuck at a traffic light but race time should include the time you were stopped and many virtual events are set-up to include it.
- For longer distances plan to pass a bathroom if that is possible.
- This is your race. Pick a route you want to run. If speed is the goal pick a flat route and minimize the number of turns. If its more about the love of running pick a scenic route with lots of distractions.
- The distance you see when using an app to plan may not be exact. Plan your route so you can add at the end or stop early on race day. My personal experience is that Garmin Connect is more accurate than MapMyRun
Virtual Race Day
This may seem obvious but virtual race day should be like an in-person race day.
- Tamper just like you would for any race.
- If there is a virtual expo maybe check it out just to get in the mood!
- Stay hydrated in the days leading up to the race.
- Eat like you would normally eat pre-race. If you were going to a race you would eat breakfast hours before because you need to get to the start. Don’t make the mistake of eating too close to start time just because the start corals are in front of your house.
- Don’t trust the race app. Many races have an app that cheers you on and records your run. Some may work but they don’t always. I speak from experience as the London Marathon app worked great for the first 20k but then it literally lost 3 or 4 km. I have heard similar stories from other people so make sure you use your watch as well. Most races have an option for uploading your result without using the app.
- If your results are being taken from Strava make sure you have the result set to public and that you make your run a race.
- Find a friend or friends to provide support. Your friends can cheer you on or make a water stop. If you are running a longer distance one COVID-19 friendly helper on a bike can make your race a whole lot easier by providing water and nutrition when you need it.
- Don’t be disappointed if it’s not a PB. Virtual racing is tougher than in-person racing because you don’t have other runners to chase or a crowd to help you get down that finishing stretch.
- Enjoy it and make it your day!
When it’s all over. Wear the shirt, enjoy the bling and start planning your next adventure!