With the majority of big races cancelled, it has to be said that 2020 has been disappointing for those of us who enjoy the atmosphere and adrenaline of race day. That doesn’t mean you need to hang up your trainers, though. With an increasing number of virtual events on offer, now could be the perfect time to start training for a race, whether that’s your first 5k or your fifth marathon. Just because you’re racing virtually, doesn’t mean it will be lacking in exhilaration!
Follow our top tips to make sure you get the best from your first virtual race:
1. Plan your route
Whether it’s 5k or a marathon, you need to cover the distance and you’ll need to know how you’re going to do this well in advance of race day. Using your brain is tiring, and if you’re trying to tot up how many laps of the field / lake / road you need to do in order to reach your distance, chances are you’re going to neglect other aspects of your race: such as your running form! Planning your route in advance also gives you the opportunity to work out how flat (or not…) your race will be, and make any necessary adjustments in time!
2. Train your mind
Running alone without the buzz of other competitors to spur you on, is probably the biggest difference between a virtual race and a traditional one. Don’t underestimate the effect running alongside other runners can have, not to mention the encouraging cheers from supporters or marshals along the pavements. Running a virtual race – especially a longer distance – can be a lonely experience. So you’re going to need to work on that mental resilience as well as your running stamina, to give yourself that virtual kick up the backside when you ‘hit the wall’ (or the ‘never again phase’, as we like to call it). Don’t despair though: as well as your physical health, your mental health will receive a boost too. Just think how proud you will feel on that virtual finish line: not only will you have covered your goal distance, but you will have done that off your own back.
3. Join a virtual running community
While running clubs might have stopped their physical sessions for the time being, you can still find motivation in the form of virtual running buddies. They don’t always need to be people you run alongside: an online running community such as here at The Running Bug, or local Strava groups can be a great way of interacting with other runners, and making sure you don’t default on your training plan. If your virtual running pals think you’re going for a 20k training run on Sunday, it has to happen!
4. Stick to the plan
Just like with any race, training for a virtual race requires a training plan. Whether you’re going in for your first half-marathon, or you have your sights set on a sub-3 hour marathon, you will need to know exactly what you need to do to get there. There are lots of online
training plans, or some people prefer to create their own. Whichever you go for, the key is to stick to it. Print it out and stick it on your fridge, so there is no way to avoid it! And then take enormous pleasure in ticking off the mileage as you count down the weeks to Race Day. Speaking of which…
5. Plan your Race Day morning
Just because you’re not surrounded by a few thousand other runners and a man with a megaphone, doesn’t mean you won’t feel the nerves. This is still your race, and it is completely normal to wake up with a great sense of anticipation. Make sure you have all your kit ready the night before; the last thing you need on Race Day is to be hunting through the washing basket looking for your favourite running socks. If you’re running a longer race, make sure you have all the race fuel you will need, as well as your watch and phone charged. And keep things simple, breakfast-wise: don’t shock your stomach by introducing something different. Most runners swear by keeping things simple and routine; whatever you usually have for breakfast is most likely to be digested easily. You should have been drinking plenty of fluids in the days before your race, so you shouldn’t try and drink huge quantities on race morning. You could end up with a nasty stitch, not to mention needing the loo. Once you’ve fuelled and in your Race Day kit, all that remains, is to start the app and record that virtual race! Good luck, and make sure you enjoy it!