Training for a Virtual Marathon

This year was supposed to be an exciting one for my running, with a whole host of races planned, leading up to the highlight of my year, running the Chicago and New York marathons. Of course, as the year progressed and all mass participation races were cancelled one by one, it became clear that this was no longer going to be possible. Once all the World Major Marathons were eventually cancelled, I stopped following my training plan and enjoyed running shorter distances for a while.

Around a month or so ago however, I started to hear talk of Virtual Marathons being offered. London announced they would be offering 45,000 places for their virtual event, and I quickly signed up for a charity place. Shortly afterwards, Chicago and New York announced similar initiatives and in my usual style, I went all in and committed to completing all three marathons in October! eek!

So what is a Virtual Marathon all about?

Virtual Marathons are, like other virtual races, ones you complete by yourself in your own local area, instead of taking part in a mass participation event. They may have slightly different rules, for example, Virtual London asks you to complete the distance within a 24hr period on October 4th, but allows you to break up the distance into smaller segments spread throughout the day if you wish. Virtual New York however, asks you to complete the distance in a single Strava activity, but gives more flexibility over the day you chose to complete it.

Virtual Marathons are of course, nothing like experiencing the real thing. You don’t have anything like the same atmosphere, no crowd support, and not even a chance to visit the city and see the landmarks (although I will be running Virtual London in my home city of London!). For me, I am just treating these as a personal fitness challenge, something to keep me motivated and in good shape until next year when hopefully, we try again!

Each of the races are though offering a lovely official finishers medal and T-shirt, which would have been the ones given out at the ‘real’ races this year, so it’s a nice way of picking up some great mementos!

What is the best way to approach the distance?

As I was feeling a little behind on my long-distance training, I thought I would take the opportunity offered by London and break the distance up into smaller segments spread throughout the day, to hopefully make it easier on myself. To this end, I’ve spent the past few weekends working on ‘Double Run Training’, heading out for an early morning long run, and then topping up the mileage with a second run later in the day. My hypothesis was that this would help me cover the miles, but in a lower impact way that allowed me time to rest and refuel (bearing in mind there won’t be any food or water stations out there on race day!). This interesting article from Runners World talks about some of the benefits of double run days and how it can aid recovery in certain situations.

In reality however, I’ve found it quite hard going. This past weekend, I managed to total 35km on Saturday, starting out with a decent early morning 22km run at sunrise. By the afternoon though, and after a busy day with the family my feet were already aching. Knowing that I still had to go out and complete a 13km run was quite tough mentally! I’m very pleased to have got that big training day in the bag, it gives me a lot of confidence that I will be able to complete the full distance come race day, even if I am flagging somewhat by the end!

Running a marathon is a huge challenge no matter which way you slice it. There is no easy way of doing it! Whether you run, walk or jog, break it up or complete it all in one go, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a long old way, and a lot of time on your feet. So, make sure you respect the distance, do your preparation as best you can, and most of all, enjoy the day!

I’d love to hear from others who have a Virtual Marathon coming up. What is your plan for the day?

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