How to Ace a Virtual Race

How to Ace a Virtual Race

From 5Ks to triathlons, many races have been postponed or cancelled this year. But don’t let that deter you from checking off your goal of completing a race. You probably started training already, so why stop now? Instead, find a virtual race.

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What Is a Virtual Race?

A virtual race is similar to an in-person running event, with one big difference: The exact location, route, date, and time are up to you. Instead of running a set course alongside a crowd of other runners, a virtual race takes place on your own terms — ideal for social distancing.

The signup process is similar to an in-person race. You’ll pay a registration fee, which typically includes a medal and a swag bag. Some virtual races benefit a charity, and most registration fees are lower since you are not paying for security, nutrition, and the other measures that go into an in-person event, says Alison Staples, Road Runners Club of America-certified run coach and physical therapist assistant.

Since nobody will be timing you on race day, the event page will explain how to upload your results — such as the time from a tracking app, a finisher’s photo, or a video.


6 Ways to Have Your Best Virtual Race

Follow these tips to ensure that you are fully prepared for your next virtual race.

1. Pick the Right Route

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Now is not the time to test out brand-new terrain. Whether you’re into rolling hills or flat routes, choose a running route that works for you. “This is all about you and how you are best able to perform,” Staples says. “I’d pick a road that didn’t discourage me.”

You won’t have the benefit of a closed course during a virtual race, so to avoid too much stop-and-go, choose a safe running route with minimal traffic and stop lights, Staples says. You can also complete a virtual race on a trail or treadmill.

2. Run When You Run Best

Many virtual races give you a timeframe of a few hours to a few months during which you can complete the race. Pick your day, and run at the time of day when you tend to run best, Staples recommends. Keep the weather in mind — if it’s summer, for example, you’ll want to avoid running in the midday heat.

If you wake up on virtual race day and it’s raining, you may decide to postpone for a few hours (or a few days). But Staples suggests lacing up your sneakers no matter what the weather brings. “Most people have done in-person road races, and no matter what happens, you have to show up on race day,” Staples says. “That’s where true grit comes in. Nobody is telling you that you have to run in the rain.” But doing it anyway can make you feel pretty badass.

3. Be Ready

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“Prepare the same way you would for an in-person race,” Staples says. In the days leading up to your virtual race, be sure to hydrate well, stay on top of your nutrition, and prioritize sleep — especially if you’re running a long distance. “Go in with the mindset, ‘This is still a race,'” Staples adds.

4. Stay Accountable

Accountability is built in to most virtual races, since you have to upload your results. But you can always tell friends you’re running and encourage them to sign up if you’d like others to keep you in check, Staples says.

5. Push Yourself

sweating workout

When there’s no crowd along the race route, you need to rely on your inner motivation to keep going. “Nobody is clapping for you, nobody is cheering for you,” Staples says — so it’ll be up to you to push yourself. She recommends finding ways to boost your confidence, like wearing your favorite running shoes or the outfit that makes you feel most empowered.

6. Reflect

“If things didn’t go as well as you wanted them to, don’t beat yourself up,” Staples says. “This is new for everybody, and so many good life lessons can come from virtual races. Allow yourself grace in doing new things.” Once you figure out what you want to improve upon next time, you’ve got the perfect excuse to sign up for another virtual race!