Updated: Oct 21, 2021
This weekend marks the start of the virtual New Jersey Marathon and Half-Marathon. Whether this is your first attempt at this distance or you have run many marathons before, there are lots of new obstacles and things to consider before you head out the door for your run. Yes, you could just go “wing-it,” but why not take some time to put a plan together and give yourself the best chance of success.
Here are the key components to planning a successful and fun virtual run:
Know before you go
First, you have to decide your goals with the race. Are you going to use this race to set a PR at the race distance by planning every detail to give yourself the best chance for success on the day? Are you going to use this as a celebration of all you have done and overcome in 2020 and simply focus on covering the distance and enjoying every moment? Are you going to use this run as part of training and focus on improving in areas you have historically suffered in the past?
Or something else entirely?
Your goal is yours. it is up to you to choose your own adventure and to decide where you want to put your focus or emphasis this year, but what your goal is will help you determine where and how to run your virtual race. So you must decide your goal before you go!
Plan your route
You are your own race director
in a virtual race, and it gives you the opportunity to pick your own route and ensure it is one that gives you the best chance to achieve your goal from above.Now, short of doing 105 laps of your local running track (not recommended), it will be very challenging for many of you to find a course as flat and fast as the New Jersey Marathon route.
Power of Pacing
Pacing is critical to any running race and running a virtual race is no different, but it does pose some unique challenges you need to overcome.
First and foremost is the absence of the phenomenal NJ Marathon pace team! With no pacer to lead many athletes to your goal time, it is vital that you have a detailed pace plan prior to heading out for your run.
This means you must first know what you are trying to accomplish with the run. Are you trying to set a PR, are you just trying to finish, or are you using this to build fitness to support later efforts? Second, you must understand your route and how that will affect your pace. Once you have your goals set and your route planned you can create a pace plan that helps you meet your goals while taking into account the terrain or the route.
Don’t be shy
Marathon and half marathon courses are lined with spectators, packed with other runners, and filled with pacers, each of whom offers encouragement and support along the way. Virtual races are part of the norm this year, so don’t be shy- wear your bib number!! Along the route, it will allow other runners to recognize what you are up to and offer you words of encouragement when you need it most.
Don’t skip the aid stations
Obviously, there are no “official” aid stations on your at-home race route, but you should plan for alternative fuel and hydration supply options. You could carry your fuel and hydration for the entire duration of your run, or you could plan to have a refueling station either on every loop of your run or pre-set along your route.
Knowing that you have cool, fresh fluids and a gel waiting for you at the end of your driveway or at your car on every loop of your run will give you something to look forward to each lap and, more importantly, it will help you to stay on top of your nutrition so you don’t bonk or hit the dreaded “wall” late in your effort.
Your finish line won’t be quite as clear this year. There won’t be a huge banner, or screaming fans and loud music, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate your accomplishment with your friends, family, and the world! Celebrate in a way that feels right for you. Let a loved one or your friends know when and where you plan to finish so someone can bring you your medal when you are done. Share a picture with your training partners, coach or the race so that we can all share in each other’s accomplishments. Since we can’t high five each other at the end of the race this year we can at least give each other a virtual pat on the back and celebrate.
The run is over, you are done, right? Time to plop down on the couch and binge-watch Netflix for the winter until you get the bug to sign up for another race right?
What you do in the hours, days, and even weeks after a big race have a huge impact on you physically and mentally going forward.
In the hours after your run:
First, eat a healthy meal and remember to hydrate. Your nutrition in the hours after the race will have a huge impact on how your body recovers.
Next, Stretch! You put your body through alot, give it a bit of love later in the day. Spend some time foam rolling and then stretching, sit in a hot tub or warm bath for a bit and then stretch after. The more TLC you give your body right after the race the better you will feel in the coming days.
In the first days after your run down time is important to let your body and mind recover, but it is also important to keep active. If you are especially beat up, go for a walk the day after the race or ride a stationary bike for a bit. If you are used to doing back to back runs in training, going for a short easy run will be a phenomenal option. Over the course of the coming days you can slowly increase the demand and gradually ramp back up to running or increasing your distance.
This little bit of activity keeps you heading in the right direction and helps your body recover.
In the weeks after your run, start thinking about future goals and training. Now is the perfect time to capitalize on your momentum and harness your enthusiasm to set a new goal. Maybe you ran the half marathon and want to commit to running a marathon next year. Maybe you finished your race just shy of your goal time and you want to improve and meet that next time goal. Maybe you want to qualify for Boston. These are all great goals! Now is the time to decide what you want to do next and create a plan to accomplish it. Talk to a coach about what it will take for you to accomplish your next goal and create a plan of attack.