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Racing a Virtual Race or Time Trial

This is a blog I first wrote last year during the height of the Pandemic. You can view that first version here.

I want to update this and pen some thoughts on the next few months of racing.

As we move into the summer, it does look like races will be going ahead, although they are looking a little different. Staggered starts and a general focus on reducing our contact with others will make races challenging.

There is absolute value in virtual races. Indeed London this year are offering a Virtual Race too.

Time Trials have been really effective for the runners we are coaching, so it's worth thinking about making the most of them.

Planning your route

Getting this right is paramount if you want to run fast. One of the advantages of a virtual event is you get to design the route. Plan to take into account what you think will work to keep you focused.

A route of small loops (maybe 1km or 2.5km for a 5km) means you will be able to create the flattest and traffic-free route possible. You can focus on getting into a nice rhythm in the early stages of your virtual race before pushing on in the 2nd half.

You could set up a drinks table and leave a bottle on there (as long as it's safe). This could be operated by a family member, and then they'll be able to support you too.

For some, though, running loops might get a little monotonous. As an alternative, try an out and back route, running 2.5km or 5km in one direction, turning around and running straight back. This will help as once you've hit halfway, you'll know you are on the way home, passing familiar sights.

A single 5km or 10km loop is a further other option but might require the most planning to find a flat route. A single loop may feel the easiest mentally as you're not passing the same point twice or more.

Whatever route you plan, make it as flat as possible. This way, you are going to have the best chance of running as fast as you can.

Measurement issues

GPS Watches aren't 100% accurate. When races measure their courses, they do so under rigorous criteria, using a calibrated bicycle fitted with a Jones Counter.

It's doubtful you'll have access to this. Using the GPS from your watch or phone will suffice. I'd suggest drawing the map online first to get an idea of how far it will be.

If possible, run the course before the event, so you have a good idea of your route.

When tor run your virtual race

Run your virtual race at the same time as when you do most of your training. Your body will be more accustomed to it. Try to run when you're fresh. T

If you're used to racing on an empty stomach, then do that if that works well for you. Otherwise, ensure that you follow your usual pre-race nutrition and hydration plan.


Running on your own is hard. With just your own thoughts to accompany you, it gets very monotonous.

With others in a field, you can run off them, chase runners down, and have the crowd lift your spirits.

With a virtual race, it's just you against the clock.

If you have someone in your household who can cycle or run next to you, this will offer you support and help keep you motivated.

If you run with music, having a few songs that you know will pick you up and motivate you will take your mind off running alone.


Warm-up for your virtual race as you would a typical race. Warm-up thoroughly with an easy 10 to 15-minute jog, include some mobility drills and potentially some strides to prepare your legs for some fast-paced running.

You're Off!

Once you're off, don't go out too hard in the first 1km or so. Even a rapid first 500 metres can cause your heart rate to spike too early so that the later stages become a heavy-legged struggle.

Build up your pace so that you can push as hard as you can in the last km.

If you've got a specific time in mind, work out your km splits beforehand and set your watch to auto lap after each km. This can keep you on target, although if you get bothered by seeing splits on your watch during racing, give this a miss.

Start to push hard in the last 1km, then in the final 200 - 400 metres, give it all you've got!

Cool Down

Try and keep moving once you cross that line. Have a good walk and a slow 5 to 10-minute jog will help bring your heart rate down in a gradual way.

This will improve your recovery and allow you to go again in a few days

Future Races

Take some time after the race to write down what worked and what didn't. It's an excellent opportunity to reflect, and you can put anything you learnt from this event into your next race.

Best of luck with your virtual race! Have fun, and let us know how you got on.


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