Running, Triathlon
September 29, 2020

4 Ways Virtual Races Are Better Than Traditional Races

Man running a virtual race

I don’t think any of us expected 2020 to turn out like this. COVID-19 entered quickly and violently. Lives are lost. The economy’s a mess, and unknown fills the air.

For endurance athletes, mass participation races have all but disappeared.

A tiny hiccup when compared to lost lives, poor health and financial challenge, the lack of races has provided a significant blow to the motivation of many passionate endurance athletes around the world.

With the elimination of traditional races, virtual races have come to the rescue. Virtual races provide a platform for athletes to set goals, challenge themselves, and achieve something positive in an uncertain time.

While they don’t provide the same flare and social connection that traditional races do, virtual races do offer some advantages over the conventional races we know and love.

What Is A Virtual Race?

A virtual race is similar to any traditional 10k, half marathon or marathon run; Olympic, Half Ironman or Ironman triathlon.

What makes a virtual race different, however, is that you register online and complete the race on your own time, in your own way.

Once you’ve completed the race, you upload your results online, via your device, for the race organiser to verify, and depending on the event, receive your finishers medal in the mail.

The Benefits Of Running A Virtual Race

Virtual Races Are Convenient

Unlike traditional races that dictate the race date, course and start time, virtual races put you in control. When carefully planned, you can structure your race to amplify your strengths and limit your weaknesses.

Don’t race well on lap courses? Don’t run laps.

Perform better in the evening than you do in the morning? Start in the evening.

Don’t like hills? Design a flat course.

Wake up feeling tired or ill? Shift your race to tomorrow.

On top of that, you’re not travelling, so there’s no jetlag. You’re familiar with the environment and terrain. With virtual racing, you stack the deck in your favour.

Sign up for Coached running or triathlon programmes.

No Atmosphere, No Problem

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard about virtual racing is the lack of atmosphere.

We’re so used to blaring music and large crowds at the start of a race that many athletes feel it’s not a ‘real race’ without them.

I partly agree, but while the excitement can add to the experience, it can also takeaway.

Pre-race hype revs up your fight or flight hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. This hormonal cocktail elevates heart rate and often catapults you into a pace that is not sustainable.

Virtual races help to contain the excitement.

When you start a race in a calm state, there’s a higher chance you’ll settle into your planned pace from the start. Your pace is directly linked with energy expenditure and to your fuelling strategy. When you start at an appropriate pace, you avoid the negative cascade of events that builds fatigue and slows you down.

Virtual Races Help You To Control Your Temperature In Hot Climates

It’s incredibly hot and humid here in Singapore. If you’ve ever stood sandwiched between thousands of eager athletes on a start line, you’ll know how hot and draining that can be.

You run a virtual race alone or in small groups, which helps to keep your body temperature lower. Keeping your body temperature down is essential if you want to keep your pace high and perform at your best.

Virtual Races Put You In Control

By now, you should see that virtual racing puts you in control of most of the essential aspects of a race.

Besides picking the date, time and course of your race, you also control your aid stations, pacers and supporters.

Choose the drinks and gels you want to take, and the frequency you want to take them. Arrange for friends to pace you and to hand you your fuel on demand, according to your predetermined fuelling strategy.

As a counterbalance to your calm start, you may want to encourage your friends and family to spread out on your course to provide cheer and a motivational boost, it’s all up to you.

Create your own atmosphere!

Celebrate Your Achievement 

Just because you don’t finish under an official finishing arch in a virtual race, doesn’t mean your achievement is any less worthy than a traditional race.

You still did all the necessary training, designed your course and completed the distance.

Be proud of your accomplishment.

Head CoachBen PulhamBen Pulham is the founder of Coached, a personal training programme that helps runners & triathletes optimise, track and enjoy their training.