Tips to make the most of your next virtual race

Nearly 400 people are expected to compete in the first Saskatchewan Marathon virtual race.

The Saskatchewan Marathon, initially scheduled for May 31, was cancelled due to restrictions related to COVID-19.

People who had registered for the event were invited to sign up instead for a virtual race which will see them complete a five-kilometre, 10-kilometre, half marathon or marathon distance between May 15 and June 15. Once they complete their race, they can then upload their times on the Saskatchewan Marathon website and receive a souvenir T-shirt and medal.

Race director Kim Ali says some people were so intrigued by the idea of a virtual race that they signed up even though they had not previously been registered for the Saskatchewan Marathon. Registration for the event is now closed.

While the Saskatchewan Marathon may be some people’s first virtual race experience, Ali says it likely won’t be their only opportunity to participate in such an event.

“I think there probably will be more virtual marathons, especially for the next year because people are going to be anxious about getting together even when the restrictions are lifted, so I suspect that there will be more of these,” she says.

Whether you’re running the Saskatchewan Marathon virtual event or have another virtual event in your future, Ali has some tips on how to approach a virtual race.

Plan your route in advance

Map out a route of your desired distance before you embark on your run. Either map out a route that will loop you back to the start or do an out-and-back so you don’t get stranded far from home. Try to avoid crossing major streets.

Though it might be tempting to follow the routes used by last year’s Saskatchewan Marathon, this is discouraged because there will be no officials blocking roads from traffic.

Set a date

Though you will often be given a  window to run the event (the Saskatchewan Marathon virtual race lets you run any time in a one-month period), pick a date well in advance and create your training schedule accordingly. That said, the beauty of a virtual race is its flexibility; if the weather forecast for your desired date looks miserable, you can choose to run another day.

Though the Saskatchewan Marathon was initially scheduled for May 31, Ali is encouraging virtual runners to consider running on other dates so there’s not an influx of runners and walkers on the trails that day.

Think about fuelling

In physical races, volunteers will hand runners water, sports drink and snacks at regularly spaced aid stations. Virtual racers don’t have that luxury. Particularly if you’re tackling longer distances like the marathon or half marathon, make sure you have a way to get water and electrolytes. This might involve running with a sports drink and gels or running in a loop and leaving a bottle and snacks accessible. You can also enlist the help of someone from your household to be a support person. Though the Saskatchewan Marathon typically forbids runners from being paced and supported by someone on a bike, Ali says such a move is encouraged in the virtual race.

Tailor your race to your strengths

This is your race. If you hate the early morning wakeups often associated with race days, run your virtual race in the evening. If you don’t like the rolling hills of the Meewasin which make up much of the Saskatchewan Marathon course, plot a flat route. If you’re a runner who needs a port-a-potty seconds before the gun goes off, plan to start right from your front door.

“You’re in control of your own race and your own race day,” Ali says.

Featured photo by from Pexels