With races cancelled for the foreseeable future, there are plenty of virtual races still going ahead where you run your own race to your best ability by yourself.
With our own Virtual 5km Challenge coming up, read on for some great advice on how to best run your virtual race. Our advice focuses on runs under or around 1 hour (mainly 5 and 10 km), due to the current UK Lockdown measures. If you're running abroad, always follow your government's official advice when exercising.
Planning your route
Getting this right is paramount if you're aiming to run fast. The root you plan should take into account what you think will work best to keep you focused. A route of small loops (maybe 1km or 2.5km for a 5km) will allow you to set up a drinks table and leave a bottle on there (as long as it's safe). This could be manned by a family member and then they’ll be able to support you too. This will enable you to get into a nice rhythm with your running at a consistent pace in the early stages of your virtual race before pushing on in the 2nd half or final km or two.
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 5 or 10km loop is a further other option, but might require the most planning to find a flat route. A single loop may fell the easiest mentally as you're not passing the same point twice or more. Whatever rout you choose, try to make the route as flat as possible. This way you are going to have a better chance of running as fast as you can.
When selecting your route, always carefully consider your safety from traffic and any potential tripping hazards. Aim to make it as safe as possible avoiding narrow paths that may put you head on with pedestrians or other runners.
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. The middle of the day may work for a fast run on a cool day but not if it's hot and the midday sun is up. If you're used to racing on an empty stomach then do that if that works well for you but otherwise ensure that you follow your usual pre-race nutrition and hydration plan.
Running on your own is hard work with just an internal focus apart from checking the safety of your surroundings / route in front of you. You can’t run off other people, chase them down, or have the crowd to lift your spirits. It’s just you against the clock. If you have someone in your household who can cycle or run next to you observing the social distancing rules 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 on your own.
Warm up for your virtual race as you would a normal race. Warm up throughly with an easy 10 to 15 minute jog or walk / jog, include some mobility drills and potentially some strides to prepare your legs for some fast paced running.
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 effort level / heart rate to spike too early so that the later stages become a heavy legged struggle. Gradually build up your pace so that you can push as hard as you can in the last km. If you've got a certain 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 your normal racing, give this a miss. Start to push hard in the last 1km then in the last 200 - 400 metres give it all you've got!
Once you've got your breath back, walk / jog for 5 to 10 minutes to cool down before showering at home with a well earnt snack and drink to refuel / rehydrate. Stretch later as appropriate. Best of luck with your virtual race and have fun!