Racing is never easy, but racing solo is a whole different challenge. With races now moving toward a virtual format, racers are faced with the difficult task of staying motivated without all of the race day thrills. And for many, this can drastically impact how they train leading up to their virtual race. But with a few little adjustments, staying motivated for a race — even a virtual one — doesn't have to be difficult.
As a runner myself, here's how I'm keeping myself excited about running and racing even if in-person races aren't in the cards for this year.
Make training fun
If there's no real start line and no one to really hold you accountable to make your assigned wave or start time come race day, training may become less prep work and more chore work. To combat this, try making your training leading up to your virtual race as fun as can be. Perhaps this means varying up your distances or deviating from your plan.
For me, this has meant running at different times of day. In my hardest of training days, I would run at night because I'm stronger and can train harder. Now that I've decided it's more important for me to actually get up and run rather than train harder, I've adjusted my schedule to run in the mornings, so I'm able to enjoy the sunrise and see my neighborhood wake up. I even have tested the waters with guided runs and meditations (something I would've never done prior), so I can end my runs at my favorite coffee shop for a pastry and dose of caffeine. My runs may not be my hardest training runs, but they're more fun than ever.
Adjust your goals
Because racing isn't normal this year, your goals and expectations can't be either. I know that come race day, my training goes far, but the roars of the spectators and the adrenaline bouncing through my veins from running with my fellow racers go farther — and faster.
As this won't be the case for virtual racing, it's time to adjust your expectations and take some pressure off of running. For those who are tackling half-marathons and marathons virtually, it's OK if you're not as fast running solo as you are while running with a pack. The fact is you're still racing. So allow yourself permission to adjust your goals as needed and relieve some of the stress of training. If you walk a little, so be it. If you take a new route that's more picturesque but causes you to be a little slower, so be it.
Plan your race day
This is a big one for anyone racing virtually. One of my favorite aspects of racing marathons is the race day pomp and circumstance itself. From chatting and connecting with marathoners prestart to waving at volunteers and bystanders to arranging for that first postrace treat with family and friends, the entire day surrounding the race is what I enjoy most.
Virtual runners shouldn't lose this excitement! Many virtual races let you pick the route you take, so be sure to select one that's fun for you. Ask friends and family to show up at strategic points along the route to run alongside you, provide snacks or hydration, or simply cheer like crazy. Try treating yourself to a new race outfit or sneakers like the UA HOVR™ Infinite 2 UC Running Shoes ($120) as a reward for finishing. I'm even planning on turning my race day into an opportunity to see my favorite neighborhoods of New York City and visit friends across the city. The point is, this is your race day — build it to be the day you want.
At the end of the day, virtual racing will never replace in-person races. Runners love being around other runners. But even if we have to race apart this fall, there are ways to still enjoy the sport we all love. My best piece of advice for my fellow virtual racers is to simply allow yourself to take it all in just as you would with any other race.