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How to Run a Virtual Race

Photo: Courtesy of Morgan Sarkissian

Christine Burke

Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Runner Products, New York Road Runners

Virtual races are now an important part of a racer’s toolkit. Here’s how you can prepare yourself for one.

With many gyms closed due to the pandemic, numerous Americans have taken to their local roads or parks to run. While in-person road races have been cancelled, virtual racing has seen a boom in participation as a means for people to keep active and establish running goals.

In 2020, New York Road Runners (NYRR) had nearly 160,000 finishers in its NYRR Volvo Virtual Racing series powered by Strava — more than double that of the year prior. Virtual races allow runners to be their own race directors, setting their own courses and choosing when to run their race within NYRR’s time window.

Three tips

First, know your route ahead of time. It’s a good idea to have a friend or family member know in advance where you are running and when to expect your return. Depending on the length of your route, you may want to also factor in a hydration plan, whether it be circling past a driveway where a friend awaits you with water or going past a convenience store. Charting your own course also allows you to pace yourself better; you can even find a route that’s more downhill than uphill.

Second, dress properly for the conditions. The faster you run, the higher your body temperature, so wear layers and dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer outside. Additionally, as we are still enduring a pandemic, always have a mask either on or with you in case you are passing other people.

Third, be aware of your surroundings. If you’re running with headphones, ensure they have ambient sound so you can also hear your surroundings. If you’re running when it’s dark, know exactly where you’re going and have the proper reflectors. Feel free to do a practice race ahead of time to ensure you understand how the race technology works so you don’t have to fumble with it mid-race and can keep your eyes on the road.

With so many virtual races to choose from this spring, including NYRR’s Virtual NYC Half and Virtual Brooklyn Half, we still have the opportunity to race safely and end up on the same leaderboard together. Whether you are running a virtual race six feet apart from a colleague or challenging a friend on the other side of the world, virtual racing truly is one of the best ways to stay active and bring us together as a community during these uncertain times.

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