Hit the Virtual Ground Running: Tips for Virtual Races

by Ben Kittredge, MD

Hit the Virtual Ground Running: Tips for Virtual Races

From 5ks to marathons, races all around the world have created a tightly bonded community that strives to push each other race after race after race. But like many other close-knit communities, the racing family must keep their distance from one another for the time being and run alone on their own trails.

While they might not offer quite the same thrill and satisfaction, virtual races are being conducted in an effort to keep people moving and keep the pride of the running family alive. Virtual races are essentially the same as “normal” races, minus the crowds of course. So, you need to train the same way you would train for an in-person 10k. However, without that feeling of “all eyes on me,” it might be harder to stay focused and motivated.

To keep you on track and on the track, here are some helpful virtual race tips. Off to the races!

Create a goal

Before hitting the ground running in either a virtual or “normal” race, you should state a measurable goal for yourself. This benchmark will help keep you motivated to train and can add much needed structure. Your goal can but doesn’t have to be time based. For instance, many runners’ initial goal is to run the whole distance of the race without stopping to walk or take a break.

Many virtual races have very large time windows for you to complete the race. I recommend setting a firm date for when you want to cross the finish line and marking it on your calendar. If you never set a date, you may keep procrastinating and pushing off both training and the race itself.

Follow a training plan

Find a training plan that is best suited for your specific fitness level and the distance you are ultimately trying to run. Make it a habit to follow your training plan to a tee in order to stay determined and to avoid common running injuries.

Take it slow

For the novice runner or the runner returning from injury, remember to ramp up your training SLOWLY. Runners, especially beginners, tend to do too much too soon. This rapid acceleration in training overworks your body and puts enormous amounts of stress on your muscles and bones, leading to easily avoidable overuse injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures.

You must also remember that running is only part of your daily miles traveled. Walking to the fridge counts and standing for extended periods of time counts too! Standing for 30 minutes straight places the equivalent amount of stress on your legs as running one mile.

Follow the 10% increase rule. Start with running 2 miles twice per week and increase by 10% for the following weeks.

  • Week 1 - run 4 miles
  • Week 2 - run 4.5 miles
  • Week 3 - run 5 miles

Mix it up

Running the exact same route day after day after day…it gets boring. Change up your running scenery to fight off the boredom and loss of motivation. Although it may be out of the way for some people, traveling to the park for a trail run is often worth it for the scenic views. Changing up your route will also give your legs and joints a break from harder surfaces such as sidewalks and asphalt.

Treadmills might not be the most popular option for many runners, but they are the perfect and balanced surface for cushioned running. For runners just starting their training or runners returning from injury, I highly recommend getting those miles in on a treadmill at first.

Don’t get complacent

Without a tangible running event to look forward to, it is easy to slack off when it comes to the extracurriculars of running. Running injuries are extremely common, and reinjury occurs often. Don’t be tempted to neglect your warm-ups or your pre- and post-run stretching sessions.

Virtual running buddy

We humans are social creatures, and going along a fitness journey with a buddy makes reaching your goals seem much more attainable. Obviously, we cannot run physically together during this time of social distancing, but you and your running friends can start a group chat and share your daily training sessions with one another to keep that camaraderie and friendly competition going.

If you do not have a group of running friends, many virtual races create Facebook pages that you can join. There you will find your fellow race competitors and an online community to share your training journey with.

Shoes

Need an excuse to buy new shoes? Well, here you go.

Running shoes have a 300-mile lifespan and should not be older than three months. When you buy a pair of running shoes, write the date of their purchase on the back heel in sharpie. To avoid common running injuries, it is essential to make sure you are not running in worn out shoes.