This week we take a look at virtual races. Their popularity has skyrocketed since real races started shutting down and many race companies have offered new virtual races or switched regular races to virtual. I had done virtual races before 2020 so it’s not new to me. I know many people miss the race atmosphere but I kind of enjoy virtual races. I think I am truly a lone wolf runner.
What are the pros of doing a virtual race? Well, right now it’s pretty much the only way to do it but when we aren’t in a pandemic why would anyone choose to do a virtual race?? These are what I consider to be pros. Others may disagree. First, you don’t have to get up at 4 am or some other ridiculously early hour because you have to drive an hour to be somewhere super early. You can basically roll out of bed and go if you choose.
You get to choose your route. You can pick a road, trail, or combo. You can find the flattest route with the fewest stops. You can set yourself up to run a very fast race. Or you can challenge yourself to do the hilliest race you can imagine. Your route is only limited by your imagination. And maybe some fences. Don’t go on private property to complete your run. That could be bad.
Fun swag arrives in the mail. Who doesn’t like getting fun packages in the mail? Most of the time the mail is boring and full of junk. It’s exciting when a race pack arrives. Then you get to pick if you open it now and look at everything or wait until the actual race day and open it after you run. I had been keeping them in the packages for a while but I’ve switched to taking it out of the package but leaving the wrapping on. It stores a bit easier without the mailing bag.
You don’t have to dodge and weave around people that want to walk the entire course but start in the first corral/wave. One of my biggest pet peeves is people placing themselves in the wrong corral. I don’t have a problem if you want to walk but please put yourself in the back. I always enter my most recent times for corral assignments or place myself towards the middle back. I know where I belong and some races I feel I could have done better had I not had to fight through groups of walkers at the start. So, virtual races mean I don’t have to deal with that! It’s so great to be the only one in the corral.
The biggest con is you don’t get the race day adrenaline and crowd pump to really go. It really does help to have people around to cheer you on or to pick off as you run the course. When you do a virtual race you can’t pick a runner ahead of you and attempt to overtake them. It doesn’t work the same way to pick a cactus up ahead to try and beat. Turns out they don’t run. And the lizards are just too fast. I can’t keep up with them.
Another con is if there isn’t a set date. This used to not bother me and I’d just pick a date on my current training plan that worked with the miles of the virtual race. Now that I haven’t been doing a set plan, I don’t know when to run these races. The ones I actually do first are the ones that say, run on October 4th. Ok, I can do that. October 4th is now my 10k or 5k race. When it’s just run anytime I feel like I never get it on the calendar. Or I think I will do this on October 24th but then the 24th rolls around and I’m tired. Or whatever. I don’t do the race. Then I have like 2 or 3 of those kinds of races and I say fuck it and do all of them in one day. So now I am trying to only sign up for those that have a set date or can coincide with one that has a set date. For example, I did a 10k on Sunday and it was for a race that was the same date so I made it all the 10ks I had to do (so one 10k to cover 3 different virtual races hah!)
One last con is you may not feel like you earned the swag or medal or PR. It definitely can feel like you just ran a training run. That you don’t deserve the medal or you didn’t really set the PR because it’s not “official”. I get it but remember, you still put in the work. You may have even put in more work than you have for a previous in-person race (I know I have). Just try to ignore those feelings that it’s not real so to speak.
Let’s take a quick ad break.
How to plan and run your best
So, how do you go about planning and running your best race for a virtual race?
First, plan and train for it like a real race. If there’s no date, pick one enough weeks out that you can be prepared for it. I can’t tell you how many weeks because it will vary depending on if you’ve been running already or just starting. If it has a set date, count the weeks until the race and pick a plan that works. If the race is say 10 weeks out and you only have a 12-week training plan, start in the appropriate week or make other adjustments as needed.
Or build your own plan with at least one day of speed work and one long run each week.
Second, start planning your route. How easy or hard do you want to make it? Do you want to do it on the trails? Do you want to do loops or an out and back? With loops, you can set up an aid station at home or your car but out and back you’ll need to carry everything you need or want with you.
Lastly, I think it’s good to actually think about it as a real race. Start mentally prepping yourself like you would a race. Try to make it seem exciting. Plan ahead. What are you going to eat that morning? Do you have a specific pre-race meal? Have that the morning of your race. Do you have certain shoes and clothes you prefer for race day? Plan to wear those. Do your pre-race evening ritual, eat your pasta, visualize the route. Imagine what a PR would look like.
Basically, try to psych yourself up. Maybe get some nerves going so you can channel it into excitement.
Or maybe you just want the swag. That’s totally ok too! I have totally done that. The Scooby-Doo 10k was only because I wanted all the Scooby swag. I may have also really wanted the Wonder Woman jacket. If you only want to have some fun and get cool swag then go out and have fun! You can plan a run route and maybe end at your favorite coffee or donut shop. You can get a friend to join you or take your four-legged buddy out too. I’ll be taking my 6-year-old nephew out for his Scooby 5k. Or however far we get.
It’s really all about having fun whether you are running it as a race or running it as a fun run. Hell, you can even walk it or hike it if you’d rather. It’s your race. Do it your way.
And that’s the bottom line.
We will slowly be getting back to real racing but I think virtual races will remain more popular for a while with regular races being very limited. Trail races are limiting to about 10 people per wave now. With cooler weather and not having to close roads, trail races can have more wave starts than road races. I saw one trail race that was having 2 or 3 days of wave starts. You can’t do that with street closures for a road race.
And the party atmosphere of races is out for now. You show up, run, and get your swag after and then leave. Part of the fun, or so I hear, is hanging out with other runners before and after the race. The new way doesn’t really differ much for me. I always show up, use the bathroom, wait in my car, run, grab my medal, and go home. See? Total lone wolf runner.
Find me online at runsonespresso.com, runs_on_espresso on instgram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Not much going on here
No netflix binges this week
Sports – dbacks done. Hockey done. Glad Tampa beat Dallas in SCF
Books – Started The boys graphic novels (amazon series)
Started Salem’s Lot Spooky October books
Until next time, may your runs be as strong as your coffee.