A virtual race isn’t something where you need to put on a virtual reality headset and run in place as images of the Boston Marathon make you feel like you’re in the race. Instead, virtual races are ones you can run (or walk) from anywhere, including your treadmill. That gives you a lot of advantages, including picking the start time and date, controlling the weather conditions and sometimes cheaper entry fees.
But without other real-life competitors and crowds to keep you accountable and motivated, virtual races present a mental challenge most runners don’t otherwise experience. Here’s how to crush your virtual race.
KNOW YOUR WHY
“Why do you run?” asks Nancy Feinstein, a Level 1 run coach, certified personal trainer and mindset coach. If you don’t know the answer, take some time to sit down and journal your thoughts. Maybe running is your time to think — or your time to not think. Maybe you run to stay in shape because your dad had a heart condition. Whatever your reason, knowing it and recalling it if you hit a wall during your virtual race keeps you putting one foot in front of the other.
HAVE A GOAL
Whether it’s just finishing, finishing under a certain time or specific splits, having a goal turns your run into a race. It shifts your mindset from “I’m going for a run” (and therefore don’t have a reason to push myself) to “I’m doing this for a reason” (and want to prove I can do this).
STRATEGICALLY PLAN THE ROUTE
Sure, a flat racecourse gives you a great finishing time. But why not make the most of your run and conquer a few challenging hills? Use an app like MapMyRun to be sure your distance is accurate, or if your smartwatch tracks mileage, you can easily do an out-and-back.
JOIN A FACEBOOK GROUP
There are tons of communities online where you can ask questions, share advice and post your results so you have some way to be accountable. You’ll also have instant inspiration. “Seeing others complete runs is helpful,” Feinstein says. “It’s that FOMO. When you see a picture of another happy or sweaty or exhausted runner, you want to feel like that.”
PREP THE NIGHT BEFORE
Just as you would with any other 5K, 10K, half- or marathon, know what you will eat in the morning, lay out your clothes and have your playlist cued up, Feinstein recommends. Then you have no excuse to delay starting.
ADJUST THE WEATHER
If the forecast is calling for downpours, high humidity or other less-than-ideal conditions, reschedule. Unless you truly want to run in that kind of weather, there’s no reason you have to with a virtual race.
If you plan to run through your neighborhood, let people know when you’ll be in their area so they can come outside and cheer you on.
RUN FOR A CAUSE
Many virtual races benefit charities. Pick one you’re passionate about, which can help encourage you to continue even when your legs start to feel like lead.
JUST HAVE FUN
“Running solo is a gift. You get to enjoy the peace you need to recharge and lift your spirits, and you will enjoy the health benefits that maintaining your physical fitness will bring to you for a long healthy life,” Feinstein says. Get out there and enjoy your own company.