COVID-19 has certainly made 2020 an interesting year hasn’t it? Before COVID, I had signed up for a 10K, a 15K and two half marathons. All four cancelled, and two of them went virtual. How do you get motivated for a virtual race?
As a gymnast growing up, I loved competing! I loved the adrenaline rush of people watching, and lived for that moment of “sticking” my routine. My heart would beat so fast but I just couldn’t get enough! Although I coached for many years, it never brought me the same joy as being out there on the floor.
I feel the same way about races. I love being squished in the corals with all the other racers and seeing what they are doing to get psyched for the race. Hearing “O Canada” and the gun going off to signify the start of the race gets my adrenaline pumping. I love running by all the people clapping and cheering and filming as you run by. And of course, I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I cross that finish line. It’s part of my “Why” that keeps me going!
All those things motivate me when I’m training for a race! I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to prepare for a virtual race, when so much was missing. When I started training for my first half marathon this year, COVID has just started to hit Edmonton and I was worried there was a chance it would be cancelled. I decided to train anyways and hope for the best! When the race got cancelled and went virtual, I decided to continue. I won’t lie, it was hard. But I found the following 7 tips helped me get motivated for all the virtual races I did this year.
Pick a virtual race that gives you some swag
Confession: I am motivated by medals. Maybe it’s my gymnastics competition background, but I love receiving a medal at the end of each race. I once ran a half marathon where I didn’t get a medal at the end and it felt so wrong. Now I make sure any race I sign up for has a medal!
One of my races that turned virtual still offered the race shirt and some perks for running the virtual race. I also found a couple other virtual to sign up for as the year went on! They may not send out your medal/swag until after the official race date so you can submit your proof of time, but it sure feels good to get something for all of your hard work!
Share your goal with others
Who doesn’t love moral support? Tell others about your race so they can help you get psyched for it! For both races my husband and my kids set up a makeshift finish line on our driveway. After I ran across the “finish line” they awarded me my medal, gave me a piece of fruit and a bottle of water! And of course all of the hugs. After my second race, some of my coworkers made me a video telling me how proud they were of me! It really made me feel good after running all those kilometres.
Find a training plan and stick to it
There are many free and paid training plans out there to help you reach your running goals. I found it nice to have a training plan to log all of my runs as it helps you to see your progress! Most of the time, I have used the training programs through the Nike Running app. They are fully customizable – you put in how many days a week you can train, how many kilometres you generally run in a week, and what your average pace is and it caters the plan to you. I just completed the half marathon plan in June, and started the marathon one in August before my marathon in January got cancelled. I also adjust the long runs depending on how I’m feeling that week (sometimes, I go longer or shorter than the plan suggests).
Prepare like you would for a live race
Just because you are doing a virtual race, doesn’t mean you should prepare differently. Before both of my virtual half marathons, I put my clothes out the night before, woke up an hour before I had to go to eat my usual race day breakfast, and made sure my playlist was set & downloaded before I left. I didn’t eat anything new the few days before race day, and I didn’t wear anything new – similar to if I was running an in-person race. Doing these things really helped my motivation level!
Plan your route in advance
For most of my weekly runs I wing it. I have a few trusted routes that I know well and I alter them a little bit depending on how far I need to go that week. But for my half marathon, I wanted to make sure that I had a good route! So a few days before the race I took my bike out and biked the route so I could mentally prepare where to go. It really helped, and now I know I can expand from there when I need to go longer for marathon training runs.
Have a good playlist
Since you’ll be missing the crowd, the pump-up groups and the noise of an in-person race, make sure you have a good playlist! I often change up my playlist every few months. Plan to have a long enough list to cover your expected time with an extra 10-15 minutes worth of songs just in case! I usually take a bunch of songs from my old playlists that I like, and then add tunes that I’ve heard on the radio lately (I use Shazam to save them on my phone), or search for artists I like and go through their discography to find new tunes. I also put out the ask on social media for ideas from my friends!
Living in the midst of a pandemic can definitely bring some negative thoughts every once and awhile. It’s hard to see the positive when we’ve gone through so much these last six months. I view running as my escape fro the real world – when I go out there I daydream, brainstorm, and enjoy the fresh air while listening to my favourite tunes. I smile or wave to every runner I run by and most of the time they do the same back. Rarely do I come home from a run not feeling in a good mood. Keeping that positivity will definitely help you get through a virtual race, and all the runs in between!
Running virtual races challenge your mental toughness, but should give you the same kind of sense of accomplishment as in-person races. One day we’ll get back to those in-person races but for the time being, we may as well enjoy what we do have. Although not the same, virtual races have filled some of the void that was missing this year with no in-person races. Fingers crossed we can get back to those in 2021!
What about you? Do you get motivated by virtual races or do you prefer in-person? Would love to hear from you!