10 Tips to Have Your Best Virtual Race From the Grandma’s Marathon Pace Team
1. Treat a virtual race like you would an actual race
Don’t experiment with new beverages or foods 24 to 48 hours before your virtual race. Stick with tried & true clothing and running shoes that are in good shape but broken in. Follow your typical race morning routine. Download your official race bib and wear it – people will recognize you are participating in a virtual race and likely cheer you on!
2. Determine your route
You can create many different types of race courses (see more details on those here, but the most important thing is to design a route that is the best fit for you. This will likely be a course that balances motivation (do you prefer scenic and quiet or a buzzing downtown?) and convenience (amenities, convenient for friends and family support, etc.). Consider traffic lights you’ll have to wait for, if there are off-street paths that work well, and areas that will be shaded. You might even want to map your course very closely and pre-mark where certain checkpoints or miles are, to make it easy to recognize when you are 20 miles in.
3. Create your own aid stations
Plan out your fueling strategy to make it as easy as possible. Whether you prefer to carry nutrition, loop past an aid station at your home, or have a support crew meet you, a virtual run makes this totally customizable! There are many good options – one recommendation could be to carry at least a small water bottle or hydration pack, and plan on an aid station of some sort approximately every 5K. Experiment and go with what works for you!
4. Plan your rest stop strategy
Without race porta potties, consider your planned route and where to build in stops as you need. Loop courses using your home, or including a family member’s home can work well. If you normally use any public or business amenities (bathrooms, portable toilets, water fountains, etc.) check on those to ensure that they are open and available.
5. Watch the weather
All runners like to watch the weather! Don’t fret too much about it, but start watching closely 2-3 days from your planned virtual race, and build in some flexibility. A benefit of a virtual run is being able to quickly reschedule for yourself. Planning on a Saturday run, but keeping Sunday open gives you a great option in case Saturday has a storm or heat wave blow in – and if all is well, you have a built-in recovery day. We all have weather apps on our phone these days, but you can also check the local National Weather Service reports directly by plugging in your zip code at https://www.weather.gov/
6. Start conservatively
Don’t be afraid to use the early miles as a warm-up, and start a little slower than your goal pace. This will help you feel good early and ease into your run. Trust your training, and let yourself naturally work to your goal pace and finish strong! If any family members or roommates run, invite them to join you for a couple miles at the beginning, to send you off!
7. Use tools to dial in your pace – but be flexible
Many GPS watches or phone apps allow you to set your target pace range with alerts if you are outside that range, helping you avoid starting off too fast. A family member or roommate on a bike could help as well. At the same time, remember that humans aren’t machines, and your pace will fluctuate based on elevation, turns, wind, etc. – and that’s OK!
8. Pace Band – the simplest tool
The majority of our pace group leaders employ pace bands, small wristbands providing a target time for each mile, based on your goal. By having an easy checkpoint (without mental math) at each mile, you can make frequent adjustments if your pace fluctuates more than you’d like. Many pacers use this free pace band creator at marathonguide.com to create their bands.
9. Safety is important
Without the support of aid stations or medical volunteers, prepare for what the day might bring: ensure multiple people know your plan in detail (especially if running in less populated areas), write any medical info on your bib/arm/something you carry, bring your phone, slow down or stop if you are experiencing pain, etc. Use caution if running on roads without a sidewalk or pedestrian path. If you wear ear buds, keep one bud out or minimize your volume to hear vehicles, bikes, etc. Finally, ensure that your participation follows all current activity guidelines from your local or state health department, to keep yourself and others safe.
10. Have Fun!
Above all, keep it FUN and enjoy your virtual race experience! Invite family, close friends and neighbors to cheer you on at a safe distance, making signs, creating chalk art mile markers, playing music, etc. Strive to complete the distance feeling good, even if it means slowing your pace a bit based on the day. You can even stop if you aren’t feeling it early on, and pick another day in the submission window to try again!
10 Bonus Ideas in 10 Words or Less:
- Train on hills once a week
- Develop a positive mantra that keeps you going
- Drive your route a few days ahead to familiarize
- Bring a mask or race wrap if running in crowded places
- First aid kit w/bandages, Vaseline, etc. – give to support crew
- Carry a credit card or $20 for unexpected needs
- Take photos along the way, tag with #gmas20 or #virtualGM
- Sidewalk chalk finish line or finish tape
- Prep your favorite post-race treat (i.e. Kemp’s Chocolate Milk)
- Celebrate! Post, call, video-conference, share your accomplishment!