If you’re an endurance athlete of any level, the chances are that 2020 feels like the year of the ‘virtual event’, but what is a virtual run? A virtual race is an organised event where participants complete the distance alone, on their own chosen course, meaning the event can be done at any location. So, you’ve decided to do a virtual 5km, a virtual marathon or any other virtual event, but how should you prepare?
Plan and recce your route
Where should I run a virtual race? Unlike a normal event you have complete freedom to choose a route… Or do you? Make sure you check event-specific rules regarding elevation gain/loss and proximity of start and finish for your chosen event. In the absence of set rules (assuming you want to run fast) it’s worth looking for a straight forward, flat route. Obviously try to avoid hills, unnecessary road crossings or any gates to open/close; if you can’t avoid hills then consider when would be best to tackle them and in which direction.
A multi-lap route can work but consider whether this aids your motivation and pacing or psychologically difficult – it depends on your mentality! Whatever you decide, a route recce before race day will ensure you know where you’re going when there’s no signs or marshals to direct you. Furthermore, it can be psychologically easier aiming for a known finish line rather than constantly checking your watch as the kms slowly tick by.
Plan your route careful - you're the event director! Photo credit Coast to Coast Photography
Engage with the ‘virtual’ community
Some of the events now available have a really great community feel with runners linking up online despite running the event solo. The fantastic team at ISORUNCLUB have some really engaging ideas where participants are able to get involved in online yoga classes, training plans and even download and listen to running mixes created by DJs specifically for the event. To get a real event feel try to engage as much as possible with the ideas your virtual event offers, and it may even boost your motivation for training in the run up to the race.
Schedule your race day
Whilst some events give you all weekend to complete the run, others may have a specific start time or small window so make sure you’re aware of this and plan your day as you would for a traditional race. If you have flexibility its best to decide on your own start time and stick to it to avoid uncertainty and potential procrastination. You could even tell friends or family when you’ll be running to make you even more accountable to it. Once you know the start time plan when you need to get up, your pre-race fueling strategy (this may start the day before), any commute time to your route and when to warm up. Having a clear schedule will give you clarity and make the event feel more like a true race.
Train for your distance
No secrets here, if you want to go the distance you’ve got to do the graft. Whatever your training philosophy or chosen training plan, make sure you put the miles in if you want to smash your virtual race. Obviously, it may be a bit easier to blag a virtual 5km then a virtual marathon, but whatever your distance some training will help. If you need some extra motivation to train then arrange to run with a training partner. In person or virtually – just knowing someone’s running the same distance/session can help.
Make sure to do the training miles. Photo credit Coast to Coast Photography
You may not consider yourself among the front runners or even your age category leaders but that doesn’t mean you can’t win a prize. The rise of virtual events has led to a variety of prizes that don’t just reward the fastest runners. The hilliest route, the most creative ‘Strava art’ or the ISORACE sponsored miles where a raffle is drawn for each mile are just a few examples of different prizes. It’s worth knowing what prizes are available and if its worth putting a spurt on for a certain part of your run – you never know what you might win!
Nail your nutrition!
As you’d expect from a sports nutrition brand, we’d recommend taking steps to ensure you nail your nutrition and optimise your performance – it’s one of the basics. Make sure you’re energised and hydrated before the event which may require electrolytes as well as just water. You can check out our electrolytes blog if you’re unsure about this. For a longer distance you will need to top up with fuel and liquids during the race – it may be difficult to carry everything so for ease of access consider multi-lap courses from home or draft in some support from friends or family. It may even be possible to stash drinks at key points around the course. If you want to look in more depth at your race fuel strategy you can listen to our podcast ‘Eat Well, Race Well’ for some top tips.
Check out the VOOM products page so you can Voom In Power Up!