5 Tips to Stay Motivated for a Virtual Race

As runners, we’ll remember 2020 as the year of the virtual race. From small local 5Ks to marathon majors like Boston and New York, race directors have cancelled live events either due to local governments denying permits or out of an abundance of caution. I think we all hoped that we’d see live racing return in 2021, but big races already have gone virtual – including the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

And it’s a big bummer. I personally look forward to the butterflies in my stomach as I lay out my “flat runner,” the chilly morning air in the corral, the nods and smiles to other runners as we wait for the race to start. I had hoped to jump up and down anxiously in A Corral in January as I waited for my chance to run my second Chevron Houston Marathon.

But I’m not going to let a virtual event get me down, and I hope you won’t, either. Here are some tips for staying motivated for our Houston virtual race.

Set a Date for the Virtual Race
When you run a virtual race, you are given a window of time to run it, usually about two weeks. For the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon, we have from January 8 – 17, 2021 to run our virtual event. Set a doable date, mark it on your calendar, and plan your training.

Choose Your Route
The best part of running a virtual race is that you can avoid overpasses and underpasses that get you at mile 17-18 of the Chevron Houston Marathon (I’m looking at you, Allen Parkway). Map out a route for your virtual half that you’ll enjoy running, whether it’s something entirely new to you or a favorite route in your neighborhood.

Train Like It’s Happening
Keep following the training plan you chose. Some days, it will be harder than others. I often ask myself why I’m doing 800 meter and one-mile repeats when I’m just going to be running a virtual half marathon. And then I remember: this is something that will pay off in huge dividends when live racing returns.

Involve Your Friends
It’s very likely that your local running club will be planning a route and a day to run the virtual race. But if not, get your friends together (appropriately distanced, of course), pick a day and time, pick a route, and hold each other accountable. Even if you end up running the course like it’s just another run, knowing that at the end you’re all going to grab breakfast tacos afterward will make the miles go by faster.

Do All the Pre-Race Things
I have a ritual before I run a long race: extra carbs the day before, laying out my clothes and gear, and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that morning. Whatever your ritual is for before a race, plan to do it. It will get you in the right mindset to run your best virtual race possible.

Bonus Tip: Enjoy the Run
It is incredibly hard to run a PR during a virtual race (but not unheard-of). There is something about the crowd that gets you to push a little harder and dig a little deeper. So if you’re not sure that you have a PR in you, don’t stress about it. Enjoy the run; stop and take selfies, or chat with your running buddy, or revel in the quiet time with your music or podcast or thoughts. After all, if you’ve come this far, you love running, and this is just another chance to bask in the amazing and hard things you can do.

As for me, I’ve planned my race route and am training, even when I’d rather just do a nice, easy pace instead of my tempo run. I’ve bumped down from the marathon to the half, since I’m not entirely comfortable running 26.2 without a medic nearby. And on my race morning, even though I don’t plan for a PR, I do plan to enjoy every step, every breath, and every moment, because this is why I run.

Blog written by #houambassador Christine Parizo