New perspectives: what we learned from virtual racing
Virtual races were never part of Run Ottawa’s offerings before 2020. In fact, the very idea of not having an in-person race never even crossed our minds. But humans are great at adapting. Looking back now, we’re asking ourselves why virtual racing has not been a component of Run Ottawa events before?
There are many good reasons why virtual races should exist. One of the lessons we took away was that there are a number of runners or walkers who cannot be at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend any given year, yet want to actively support a participating charity in the Charity Challenge, or want to carry out a personal running goal (like their first marathon!) with their closest friends and family—not 200,000 people they don’t know. A virtual option makes this possible for them and provides the same profound sense of achievement as crossing a live race’s finish line. This perspective was a revelation. And from now on, virtual racing will be a part of every Run Ottawa event.
After the 2020 Tamarack Ottawa Virtual Race Weekend we asked Run Ottawa members ‘What lesson or lessons have you learned from virtual racing?’
Here are a few of their answers…and tips:
Not every race has to be a PB. Sometimes the goal can just be to have fun.
I remember in March and April, the mantra was, “Stay home!”. I think that getting outside for exercise, done carefully, is much better for you.
- If the race is a long one, run loops, using your home as a water, fuel and pit stop.
- Also for a long run, if you can’t do loops, make sure you have places to stop along the way.
- Pick a route that has few or no stop lights.
- Avoid narrow or crowded paths; perhaps run early in the day.
- Take advantage of the virtual race flexibility with regard to where and when to run. The run must be enjoyable.
- If running with a friend, keep a social distance, and finally…
- there must be photographs!
There are a LOT of virtual races being offered but we all have limited resources (including money!). So my advice is to be selective…choose virtual races that speak to you in some way. For me: does the race raise funds for a charity, or do some other public good via awareness of a cause?
Although running virtually hasn’t been exciting, enduring or emotional – I have learned that it’s always going to be about you doing the best you can for yourself and your wellbeing.
I miss the races, big and small, but have truly found the fun, challenge and excitement in a few selective virtual races. I also learned how much work goes into race directing—and that was for one runner. A few of us supported another member to do his solo marathon. With cyclists carrying water, snacks, spray bottles for relief from heat and sanitizer to keep it all safe and a team of runners to keep his spirits up, Brian completed the distance. Afterward we danced and drank a beer to celebrate the accomplishment. Supporting is almost more fun than racing. I should mention he made his own route and supplied us with a detailed map with estimated times, and provided the music and beer for the party. I should ask him if directing or running was the hard part.
If you aren’t running, go out and cheer for your friends, it means a lot!
I’ve been virtual racing for a while because it can be a great way to support a cause. It can also be a great way to keep your motivation high because if you commit to running something, even a virtual run, you’ll still want to train for it. Doing that will make you feel like you accomplished something.
I followed the normal rules you would have in a real race:
- Don’t pause your watch, for anything – traffic lights, water stops etc.;
- Don’t re-race…if you have a bad time, live with it…they won’t run a real race again for you if you are not happy with your effort;
- Set up your route where you minimize traffic lights and agree with the loop idea where you can stop off at your car or home as an aid station.
That you can find new ways to enjoy an activity you love. Being open-minded to the possibilities: it has provided access to meet so many great people in fabulous locations to share thoughts, photos and just goodwill to keep those feet moving.
Let your friends know because their support on your virtual race day is invaluable, my virtual Ottawa Marathon run on the Ottawa course was memorable because of them.
Ranya El Sadawy
I think it wasn’t learned, more reaffirmed that our run community is so strong and so supportive without the need to share a space, finish line or even a course. I’ve had some of the most fun encouraging others and racing this summer than I ever have.
Always bring water…no matter what the distance. And bathrooms…plan a route with bathrooms. And bring a mask.
Every race is different. It brings a new set of challenges that we push through and overcome. Virtual racing is just that.
It’s good to have good friends. I had two running with me the first two loops of my 4 x10.5K. Few more on the 3rd, and it was a party with many more running and on bikes the last loop. We kept social-distanced and the finish line was toilet paper.