Tips for Virtual Racing

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There are unique challenges for runners making big efforts solo during quarantine. We complied advice from runners who executed successful virtual races! For many of us, races drive us to train and open our dreams to what is possible. Check out these tips for virtual racing to make your experience a success!

Erin Laplander (@happy_athlete_erin) shares with A to Z Running about her virtual race experience, “No other runners. No crowds. No course markings. Just the pounding of my feet on the ground and the beep of my watch clicking over the miles, proving that I could accomplish what I put my mind to. What I had trained for months to do. Don’t let the atmosphere, or lack thereof, stop you. You are better than that. You are stronger than that. You are a runner. Runners keep showing up.”

Plan your virtual race.

Create your route.

You can create the course wherever you would like. Athletes around the world are getting creative based on their preferences and/or limitations. Some runners are not allowed outdoors for exercise, so they are racing in their homes, on their treadmills, and in their yards. Be careful to not cause injury, but stretch yourself and have fun with the absurdity. Lasting memories will be made, and you may just realize what you can do within strict limitations.

If you are allowed outdoors and can create your own course, take advantage of this freedom! Want to challenge yourself to a hilly course? Go for it! Want to run that slightly net downhill section of town? Go fly!

Tips for creating a route:

  1. Run the route prior to your race attempt.
  2. Avoid large crowds in order to keep your distance. Just because you are going fast don’t mean you can speed by closer than 6ft as you’re weaving in and out of people.
  3. Check the distance with more than one measuring method. The last thing you want is to run an epic solo 2.9 miles and end early when you would’ve had a 5k PR. Unless you’re going for a 2.9 mile PR.

Set a time.

The time is yours. Whatever time of day you feel best would be great to schedule your race. If possible, you may want to schedule it at a time that everyone in your household can cheer you on. Even if it’s only one other person, involve them. You’ll feel their energy.

(And don’t neglect insights from Daniel Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing: for most, maximum performance output is accomplished in the afternoon.)

Mark the finish.

Not only will marking the finish help you with accuracy and give you visual definition as you make your kick in the homestretch, but it also will be memorable. I love what AnnMarie Kickpartick did with her children for their family’s virtual race. 

Set a prize.

Courtesy of Tawny Bybee

Treat yo self! Seriously! Having motivators with tiers of prizes based on your goals will help you level up during your race! It could be those chips you hid in the cupboard, handmade medals, epsoms salts for a long bath, signing up for another race, an hour of video games, the last Snickers in the house…. whatever motivates you!

Tawny Bybee (@arunnerslife.arl) also suggests, “Put the details into the race that you might not get otherwise! Virtual races are awesome because you pick the start time, the location, the distance, the prizes, etc! Make it a win!”

Keep your routine.

Tawny Bybee (@arunnerslife.arl) suggests, “To make the race feel more “real”, treat it like a real race! Eat what you eat the night before. Wear your usual racing jersey. Wear your fastest shoes! Celebrate afterwards like you’ve really raced- because you have, regardless of other people around you!”

The Kirkpatrick’s pre-race lay outs

Routines to keep in mind:

  1. Food
  2. Wake up time
  3. Shoes
  4. Jersey
  5. Warm up routine
  6. Drills
  7. Strides

Zach (of AtoZrunning) is passionate about getting the body ready for training and performance. Not only will you have better success with mobility and activation, it is also key in avoiding injury. Would you like some of our routines? This will be an upcoming article. Don’t miss it. Subscribe!

Make it Social.

Virtual social connection can be powerful.  As Chris Collier (@brooksgurumi) shared about his Playmakers 5k virtual race, “I kept thinking during my run about how wild these times are but also how these virtual races are a sign of how this community sticks together. I am so thankful for that.”

Sharing your experience may be outside of your comfort zone. It’s ok. Everyone is different. Please know that if you are considering posting about your solo race efforts, it is a huge encouragement to others. The virtual community, including AtoZrunning, are here to cheer you on. 

We would love to share your race attempts and PRs please mention @atozrunning and we will do our best to share your accomplishments!

Tawny and her husband Dustin (@arunnerslife.arl) found another way to make their race social within the guidelines! A few people in their area staggered their races to run the same course. Even though their races were solo, they had a sense of community and competition by running the same course.  

Finally, see if you can do LIVE TRACKING for your family and friends. Erin Laplander  (@happy_athlete_erin) used Garmin GPS Tracking and we were able to cheer for Erin from home. We were so glad to be able to “watch” Erin hit her half marathon PR. If you are a premium user on Strava you can also use the “Beacon” setting to share your run’s live location. (The active links give you a tutorial.)

Involve the kids.

Check out AnnMarie and her son’s homemade bibs!

AnnMarie Kirkpartick (@annmariekirkpatty) shares this about including your kids in virtual racing: “Kids love to be part of activities with their parents. The virtual race I did included making our own race bibs so as they watched me design mine they asked for their own. I have been taking the kids on short runs with me and the main purpose of the run is NOT running, but getting one on one time, chatting, stopping often, walking when they are tired, and having fun. The motivation of getting to break tape at the finish line was huge for my kids, they are competitive and loved it. I tried to make it just like races I’ve been part of- the post race party included ice cream sandwiches. The night before the race we laid out our clothes just like they’ve seen me do a hundred times. The biggest suggestion I would have is, be flexible, keep it fun, and just enjoy being with them.”

Suggestions for making virtual racing fun for kids:

Courtesy of AnnMarie Kirkpatrick
  1. Race day anticipation (AnnMarie suggests laying out race clothes)
  2. Making race bibs
  3. Making AND breaking the tape
  4. Post race party with a treat
  5. Have an award ceremony
  6. Have the littlest non-racers cheer and hold signs

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