It’s finally here: the marathon you’ve been training months for. You set your alarm for 4:30 a.m. You set another one for 4:34 a.m., just to be sure. You already have your race day gear laid out, but there’s still so much to do that’s time sensitive. The right balance and timing of your pre-race meal, driving downtown, finding parking, and hopefully getting a good warm up and stretch in before the gun goes off is essential. Not to mention, today is going to be unseasonably hot and humid.
But what if none of that mattered, and you could control every aspect of what your race day looked like? That’s the freedom of the virtual race. The virtual road race format is rapidly rising in popularity because it eases a lot of the stress of a traditionally scheduled event. You’re now not only a participant, but also the race director. Let’s talk about some of the things you can do to prepare for a great race day!
Choosing Your Virtual Race Course
First things first…your race course. When training for a virtual race, you get to decide what route you will use as the course.
Are you looking for a personal record (PR) with a nice flat course or do you want a hilly challenge? Either way, you’re going to want to pick a place you know well and has plenty of space. A local park may have a trail that would be perfect for your virtual race.
Customize Your Virtual Race
With a virtual race, you can now control aspects of the race that you normally wouldn’t have been able to. Just a few considerations when you customize your virtual race:
- Water stops: Do you prefer water or Gatorade every half mile or mile? Since you know the course, you can stash liquids wherever you want throughout it.
- Race day schedule: Do you have trouble getting up early and making time for your meal / warmup / stretching routine on a normal race day? A virtual race lets you decide when the “gun” goes off and the race starts.
- Weather conditions: Is today supposed to be humid or pouring down rain? Virtual races offer the luxury to postpone the race.
With many virtual races giving you a race window from hours to weeks to complete the run, you can find the perfect race day conditions to perform your best.
Make Your Virtual Race A Success
One potential challenge with a virtual race is trying to maintain the same motivation or nervous feeling you might get from walking up to the starting line with thousands of other runners. To avoid treating your virtual race like another training run, you can do a few things.
- Have a goal: Keep track of your splits and adjust your pace accordingly. You won’t have a pacer to run with, so knowing your pace time is that much more important.
- Set up a finish line: It may sound silly but running through some toilet paper at the end of a hard-fought battle will give you the sense of accomplishment you might need.
- Involve your friends and family: Maybe it’s handing you a cup of Gatorade at a certain mile marker or popping up randomly along the course to cheer you on. Whatever it is, just seeing a supportive and familiar face can be a huge boost to your morale.
So, there you have it. Whether you’re someone who needs the excitement of a big race day event, or you want to be in control of your routine, a virtual race can still be everything you need. Utilizing some of these tips can ensure that you have a competitive, safe, and especially, fun virtual race.
To sign up for Franciscan Health’s online training program, visit FranciscanHealth.org/RaceTraining.
By Jordan Hogan
Athletic Trainer with Franciscan Health Sports Medicine