As we all navigate the pandemic, athletes have also had to adjust and manage their goals differently. If you had plans to run a 5K or a marathon this year, the chances are that it was either canceled or altered in some way. For runners, there's no doubt that 2020 will go down as the year of the virtual race.
If you've run a race before, you know that part of the thrill of it all has fellow runners to compete against and a crowd to urge you on. But a virtual race can be just as rewarding, especially if you go in with a game plan. Follow these tips to ensure a successful result.
What is a Virtual Race?
Many live races this year were converted to a virtual race format, meaning an event in which participants can join in wherever they are and log their results, usually on the event website. You can choose your own location, route, pace, and even who you run with. As with a regular race, you often still need to register to receive your swag bag.
Don't Go It Alone
Everyone knows it's easier to train with at least one partner, especially when you're trying something new. The same is true here – without the run-day atmosphere, your training buddy can help make this feel like a real event. This can be easy if you signed up for the race with a friend, but if you don't know of anyone in your area, you can tap, check to see if the event has a social media presence. That's an easy way to see if any runners are near you.
Make a Training Plan
You'll have to consider a couple of factors as you build your training plan. If this is your first race, develop a plan that will allow your body to slowly adjust to the distance. You need to figure out the pace that works for you. It's tempting to push too hard during this phase or to mimic the style and pace of other runners. If you're running and you can't carry on a basic conversation with your training buddy, slow down.
The length of the race should help guide your training routine. If you're planning for a 5K, start with shorter distances and add kilometers as often as you manage until you get to the ideal time. For longer races, you'll need to schedule longer runs at least weekly to get your body accustomed to it.
Get Your Head in the Game
Your body will help you start the race, but your mindset will keep you going. To develop a strong mental game, understand that a race is a test of endurance, and you will not always feel like continuing.
So how do you push through? First, what is your goal? Do you have a personal-best time you want to achieve? Or is this event important for your personal fitness plan? Whatever your goal is, reminding yourself of why you've signed up is a great motivator.
Another way to sharpen your mental game is to practice mindfulness. This involves being fully present during your run and eliminating all distractions, and teaching yourself to refocus when your mind wanders. Studies show that the ability to stay focused on one thing – your race, in this case – improves performance.
The achievements you earn from running a virtual race are just as concrete as a live event. But if you don't have a training plan, some partners, and a mental game, that track to success will be tougher. With the proper preparation, you'll cross the finish line with a strong performance.