9 tips for making the most of your virtual race experience

Since March, thousands of registered participants have faced disappointment over race cancellations and postponements because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With no clear end in sight, participants and race organizers alike are starting to wonder if there will be any official races in 2020. 

Enter: virtual racing. 

While it has been a stressful and confusing time, race organizers, like Run Ottawa, are starting to offer virtual race options to those who want to keep active, set goals and receive rewards and accolades for their accomplishments.

But what does ‘going virtual’ mean in the road racing world? For many of us, a virtual race can’t possibly replace the thrill and excitement of a live, in-person event. We understand…it’s hard to imagine something you’ve never done before, so we don’t expect you to believe us when we tell you that running a virtual race is different, but it can still be an amazing, unforgettable and fulfilling experience

Here are nine tips for getting the most out of your virtual race participation: 

 

1. TRAINING: TO BE OR NOT TO BE?

With spring being a popular race season, many runners were well into their training plans before COVID-19 shut our world down. Some runners have continued to follow them diligently, while others have, understandably, been thrown off-course with stress, homeschooling or other COVID19-related issues. If you were signed-up for a marathon or a half marathon, and your training plans have gone awry but you’re still interested in taking part in a virtual race, consider transferring to a shorter distance if it better suits your current living situation. Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is offering free transfers for 2020, as are other events which have gone virtual. 

Some of you may have decided to take on running due to gym closures and sports programs being put on hold. It IS possible to train for anything from a 5K to a 10K in a matter of weeks. Our friends at Running Room are now offering virtual training programs, and RunCoach offers a FREE training program to ALL Tamarack Ottawa Virtual Race Weekend participants—you simply check off the Run Coach box during the registration process, and they will contact you! If you registered prior to March 10, 2020, you can still receive Run Coach for free by emailing coach@runcoach.com.

SAFETY TIP: Now is not the time to try to push yourself beyond your limits. Work with a distance and pace that works for you. If you are registered for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon and are not comfortable with long training hours, consider dropping down to a shorter more accessible distance. This is your race.

 

2. NAIL DOWN YOUR ABCs

A race has never been more about YOU, than a solo, virtual race. You are the only person holding yourself accountable and getting yourself to the finish line. Set an attainable but challenging goal for yourself. Make sure no matter where your route is or how much you see, you are pushing yourself to achieve what you set out to accomplish. Set your ‘A-B-C’ goals before your race day. Your A-B-C goals are intended to ensure you cross the finish line proud of your efforts and have different personal goals to fit various situations. For many runners, goals means time, but these can be any goals that you have for your race.

Your A goal is your perfect scenario goal. It may seem like you are shooting at the stars, but on the perfect day it could happen. Think BIG. 

Your B goal is more within your reach, but still challenging. This goal is attainable and could happen without the ‘perfect’ race day. Push yourself!

Your C goal is a goal that leaves you satisfied and proud of your efforts. There are many races that nothing goes as planned and the unexpected happens—this goal ensures you are still successful no matter the outcome of race day. For many runners, FINISHING is their C goal. This way you will ALWAYS feel proud of your efforts no matter what circumstance you find yourself in on race day. 

 

3. PLAN THE PERFECT ROUTE

“Already plotted out a 3K route past my house/water station which I will run 7 times .” —Heather Lewis, Run Ottawa member

Some runners will be racing on their basement treadmills, others will loop through the streets in their neighbourhood, while others may tackle a familiar trail. This is your run, get creative and pick a route that works for you and follows your public health agencies’ guidelines. You could choose a simple route like this guy or you could choose to mimic the course you were originally scheduled to race. RacePointMaps offers elevation profiles of many races, including Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend

Important! If you are running Tamarack Ottawa Virtual Race Weekend, we specifically ask that you do not use any of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend routes as they will not be closed or policed. Please do not attempt a group run on race weekend—or at any time during the virtual race window. 

There are numerous resources available to assist you in planning the perfect, safe route such as Runkeeper, Strava, and Map My Run.All these applications have the option to create a personal route with GPS capabilities.

SAFETY TIP: Always run with your phone and make sure someone knows your route other than you, most of the timing apps (see #5) offer a live tracking feature that you can share with family or friends. Just like a live race, you should have an emergency contact located on your bib or body in the unlikelihood that it is needed.

 

4. CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN

Too sunny? Looks like rain? Do you prefer early morning runs or late afternoon rips? Which day of the week works best with your work and/or personal life? You have the unusual advantage of choosing the best day and time for your virtual race. We recommend setting a specific date and time that works for you—this will help you mentally and physically prepare for race day, just like an established event. Be sure to tell your family and friends so they can provide support!

The beauty of a virtual race is that if the weather takes an unexpected turn, you have the flexibility of pushing your race to another day—just make sure your fans know. 

 

5. TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR TIMING

In a virtual race, you will not have access to a timing chip—which is normally attached to your race bib or secured around your ankle. But thanks to technology, there are a few options for virtual races! 

  1. Use a running GPS or smart watch such as Garmin, Timex, FitBit, Apple.
  2. Download a free tracking app such as Runkeeper or Strava.

For Tamarack Ottawa Virtual Race Weekend, our timing partner SportStats, has created a virtual race results platform which integrates with several popular run tracking services—there will be an option for a manual upload as well. Once you complete your race (woo!) you will be able to upload your finish time and be part of the official results page!

 

6. RUN TO RAISE FUNDS

Give your virtual race even more meaning: run on behalf of a charity! During this unprecedented time, front line agencies and charities depend on much-needed funds and support to provide fundamental services to the community. 

The Scotiabank Charity Challenge, Tamarack Ottawa Virtual Race Weekend’s fundraising program, gives runners the opportunity to raise money for a charity of their choice. Scotiabank generously covers all the costs associated with fundraising—from the online platform to the transaction and service fees—which means 100%* of funds raised go directly into the charities hands. There are over 70 charities in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge who need your fundraising support in these difficult times!

Sometimes it takes more than one race to reach a goal. The Tamarack Ottawa Virtual Race Weekend is open from May 15 to September 7, which gives you lots of time to raise awareness and fundraising support for your virtual race. Why not challenge yourself by trying to beat your own time during this window? 

For example, on May 30 you run a 32 minute 5K. Good job! With more preparation, could you run a little faster? Through Sportstats, you can submit results multiple times, and they’ll take your best performance for the final results on September 7.

If you are running for a charity in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, you can use this as a way of capturing your family and friends’ attention and support! “Hey guys! I’m trying to beat my 5K time in support of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation! 100% of your donations go directly to the hospital!” Everyone wins.

BONUS: All participants who raise over $500 for their charity of choice receive a free entry into Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend 2021.

 

7. RECRUIT YOUR CHEERING SQUAD

Your household can be your personal in-person cheering squad—have them assist is bringing you home through the finish line and serving up nuun and countless high fives. 

But what about crowd support along the course? The answer is Motigo! This free app is available to all Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend participants and allows your friends and family to record personalized audio messages that play to help motivate, inspire and  you throughout your entire race, through that dreaded kilometre and on the last mile where your legs are shaking. 

“Running a marathon alone and in a new city was a daunting experience. It was so nice to have the opportunity to receive audio messages from my friends and family, delivered at the intervals of their choice, in my ears! Hearing their cheers, support, jokes, and love was just what I needed to stick it out and focus on my run. It was everything I needed to be reminded of what I was capable of and to not feel alone! I never want to run another race without Motigo!” —Michelle Hughes, Ottawa, ON 

 

8. FOLLOW THE NEW RULES

Whether you’re training or racing, remember to physical distance through your ENTIRE run.

  • Don’t go running if you feel sick. Stay home. Run your race healthy. It’s virtual – you can do that!
  • Run alone—do not run with a group. PRO TIP: you can run together virtually by connecting with your crew through text or Messenger and running at the same time, but on different routes.
  • Stay two metres apart if you’re passing another runner or walker.
  • If you feel that someone is running too close to you, ask them to give you more space or let them pass.
  • DO NOT spit or blow snot-rockets.
  • Carry your own fuel, hydration, and hand sanitizer with—avoid drinking fountains and public bathrooms. PRO TIP: Plan a route that includes your own property and set up your own fuel/water station in your yard.
  • Steer clear of handrails or crosswalk signals (use your elbow!)—and avoid touching your face while running (we know it’s hard!).

9. SHARE YOUR RACE!

Share your training, planned route, start line,, mid-run and finish line race-face with your friends and @RunOttawa @OttawaMarathon using #RunOttawa2020. Keep connected on your journey as we run virtually together. We can’t wait to celebrate with you after you crush your goal! 

 

Excited to try your first virtual race? Sign up for Tamarack Ottawa Virtual Race Weekend now!