On the one hand (foot?), running a virtual race sounds like a no-brainer: Head out, go the prescribed distance, cross a virtual finish line.
Then when you start to consider logistics—a course of accurate distance; water and energy "aid stations"; possible bathroom breaks; and more—and you realize running a successful race-of-one can feel a bit daunting.
Don't worry; you can definitely put together a virtual race—and potentially run a PR. After all, there's no bobbing and weaving necessary as you navigate out of your corral and into your own space on the road.
Today, we'll go over the physical + logistical aspects of how to run a virtual race. In a future post, we'll hit the mental side of things.
PRE-RACE PREPARATION: PLAN YOUR COURSE WISELY
Try to not run anywhere that you have to stop for large amounts of time, like that stoplight that seems to take 5 minutes to change.
Consider a loop course or out-and-back. While they might not be the most visually stimulating, a more simple course provides easier opportunities to be supported and cheered on; your family can be at, say, the 4-mile and 9-mile mark of a half marathon, and not have to travel far between the two.
What's more, a looped course may allow you to stop at home for the facilities, if need be. Remember most businesses may not be open right now: If you usually make a pit stop mid-race your options will be limited: plan accordingly (💩💩).
Don't fret the distance too much. If you end up going slightly shorter or slightly longer than expected, no worries. (6.35 vs 6.3? All good.)
PRE-RACE PREPARATION: OTHER IMPORTANT DETAILS
The morning before—or even 48 hours prior—create your flat runner and post a picture of it online. Virtual support pre-race is more crucial than usual; knowing you have people expecting you to run a 5K or half marathon on Saturday morning will make it a non-negotiable if you start to waver about getting 'er done.
If you’re a time-focused runner, set an A, B, and C time goal, just like you would for an IRL race.
Eat your favorite pre-race, night-before meal and your typical pre-race breakfast, just like you would for a “regular” race.
Plan how to fuel/hydrate. If a family member(s) or a socially-distanced friend can be on the course for you with GU, a water bottle, or whatever else you need, that's awesome. If that isn't possible, though, you've still got options:
- Recruit a friend in a nearby neighborhood to leave a water bottle and GU/banana on her porch or in the mailbox.
- Late in the day on the day before your race, go on a little recon and strategically hide sports nutrition or full water bottles in trees or near stop signs (just remember where you put them!).
- Wear a Fuel Belt—or shorts or capris with lots of pockets.
YOUR CHEER SQUAD IN THE AGE OF CORONAVIRUS
Have your family/neighbors/friends write encouraging messages along the route on the road with chalk. Posters along the route work equally well.
Run “with” a best running friend (or several) via Bluetooth headset. Similarly, you can have a friend call you at a certain point to chat with you to simply pass the miles.
If you know someone else doing the same virtual race, plan to do it at the same time wherever you are. College bestie in Wisconsin and you’re in Chicago? Coordinate outfits and both start running at 8:00 a.m. CDT.
If the race host sent a bib or there’s an option to print one out, wear it! Getting cheered on by random strangers along your route adds a festive flair.
Save something fun to listen to for the race, like a new podcast episode or playlist to enjoy. (When you announce your virtual race on social media, ask for song suggestions.)
Share on social media afterwards—and possibly check in during your run, just like you would a “real” race.
IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE
Run with the race medal in your pocket so you can slip it over your head as soon as you cross that virtual finish line.
Make an award for 1st-place female or as least first in your age group! You did it, sister!
Give yourself time at home to unwind and relax, post-race. You may not be in a hotel, but you can still take a long shower followed by a long nap—and a celebratory piece of cake!