Racing’s New Normal: 4 Ways to Make the Most of a Virtual Event

By Heather Grace, Je Cours Qc ambassador.

Runners have goals – distance goals, pace goals – and these goals are tested at a goal race, where all the hard work and training is put out in the open.

COVID-19 had different plans for us this year, with nearly all notable in-person races being canceled. But remember: just because your race was canceled doesn’t mean that running is canceled.

What is a virtual race?

A virtual race is exactly what it sounds like: a race that is done virtually. The details will vary race to race, but in essence participants register to run a specific distance and are given a window of time for when the run needs to be completed. The results are then uploaded to a website or platform specified by the race organizer, usually using a GPS-enabled device’s data (like a watch or smartphone). Many virtual races are offered at no cost, while others include a registration fee that gets the participant some cool race swag, like a t-shirt or a medal.

Virtual races are becoming more and more popular as runners look for a boost in motivation to keep working on their goals. They are a safe option during this pandemic, since the runner can choose the time and location of their run, avoiding race-day crowds. Read on to learn how to make the most of your virtual race experience!

1. Choose your route

One of the great things about a virtual race is that the course is up to you (I struggle with hills, so you better believe I will choose a totally flat route). Map out your route in advance so that you know you will meet your planned distance. If you’re tracking your run with a GPS-enabled device, consider adding an extra hundred meters to account for GPS errors. Try to avoid high-traffic roads, and if you can find a loop without traffic lights that is ideal. My preference is to run loops in a nearby park!

Note: Be sure to follow your local road rules! It may be tempting to mimic the original course of a canceled race, but this can be dangerous since roads will not be closed or policed for a virtual event.

2. Choose your start time

Even if your virtual race provides a generous window to complete your activity, planning a specific race date/time will help keep your training on track and will give you a specific goal to prepare for. Choose the day of the week that works best for you, based on your work schedule and/or personal life. I like to give myself a 2-day buffer, just in case the weather takes an unexpected turn.

You can also decide what time of day you would like to run. Traditionally races are done in the morning, but if you’re a night-time runner, go for it! Just be sure that you are visible, especially if you’re running in the dark.

3. Honour your pre-race ritual

With your route set and your start-time planned, the last step is to zone in on the experience you are about to have. Maybe there is a specific playlist that gets your energy pumping, or a carb-rich meal that you always have the night before a race. Maybe you have a lucky hat you’ve worn for all of your best efforts. Honour these rituals as you would for any other race, and get your inner hype-beast going.

4. Have fun!

The most important part of any event is to be sure that you have fun. Running can bring on feelings of elation, regardless of the circumstances – it’s time to chase that runner’s high. If you have friends or family nearby, encourage them to come cheer you on and give you air-high-fives throughout your race. Create an official start / finish line for yourself, and throw your arms in the air as you cross it. Be proud of yourself for setting a goal and seeing it through!

While virtual races are not a replacement for conventional in-person races, they do offer a fun and safe alternative during these times. Do you have any virtual races planned this fall? On October 4th 2020 I will be racing in the virtual SSQ Insurance Quebec City Marathon. Registration is open until October 1 at 23:59 through the link below!


This post was written in partnership with JeCoursQC.
As always, all ideas and opinions are my own.

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