With many major marathons turning virtual this year, it's important to think about a different approach towards preparing and running.
While the adrenaline of race day can give you a boost, there are no big crowds at home which can make motivation during the late stages more of a challenge. However, there are many benefits too - you can create your own route and your own rules, run with family and friends... and you can even treat yourself to a lie in!
We've spoken to Running With Us to find out the best way to prepare for your virtual marathon.
The week leading up to the event
While there are ups and downs to a race turning virtual, it's very similar to a 'normal' race. That means a lot of the preparation you might have been doing already still applies!
- Stick to your training plan: It's vital to stick to your plan as you would for a normal marathon. This is still 42km and the real deal, even if it's virtual!
- Get your nutrition in check: Eat well and keep snacking on the days leading up to the event, and make sure you're staying well hydrated
- Rest up: Get in early nights and plenty of rest so you can arrive on race day full of energy.
- Get organised: Sort out your kit and nutrition in advance so you have your favourites ready to wear. It's also a good idea to have any charity vests or new gear tested on one or two previous long runs.
Choosing your route
Choosing a route that works for you is important - it's up to you to choose how to complete 42km run now! Whether you prefer a point to point route, multiple loops, or an out and back route, make sure you've got this sussed before you head off on race day. If you're doing this near your home, you also have a chance to run portions of any potential routes during training to see how they work for you.
Here are some tips for route planning:
- Find a route that you find exciting or works for your needs. 42km is a long way and some variety will help to break it up more.
- Choose a flat route if possible... unless you prefer a challenge!
- Put safety first - try and stick to pavements and trails over roads.
- Try and keep an eye on wind direction - if you're running a point to point route, it'll be easier to run wind-assisted rather than into headwind.
- Keep the route interesting - landmarks and views can help keep up the motivation
Plan your nutrition strategy
As there are no organised feed stations on a virtual route, you need to think about your nutrition ahead of time. Here are our tips on how to stay fuelled:
- If you have support from family or friends, create mini feed stations along your route. We recommend taking on 1-2 Energy Gel Aquas every hour, so place these feed stations strategically depending on your pace.
- If you're running solo, create a route with shorter loops where you can run back past your house to refuel. If you're looking at taking on a gel roughly every 30 minutes, you could create an hour loop, take one gel at home and carry one with you. If you can carry more gels, for example in a gel belt, you could create a longer loop.
- You could also carry a small backpack with a water bladder for your drink and a race belt to carry your gels. We recommend taking on a gel every 20-30 minutes, which would mean 10-12 gels in total over the course of 4-5 hours. You may need to add Energy Drink to your water bladder for extra energy if you can't carry that many gels with you and don't want to create a feed station during your route.
Not sure where to start with race day nutrition? Check our guide here.
Keep up the motivation
Without the crowds cheering you on and the adrenaline of the race day environment, 42km can get tough towards the end. Here are our tips on how to make your day have some of that event day excitement:
- Get your family and friends involved if you can – perhaps running alongside you partway, stationed in sections and supporting with drinks and gels, as well as plenty of noise!
- Tell your neighbours and friends when, where, and why you’re running your virtual race. Ask them to come out and support you if they have the time.
- Find other participants online or via any charities you’re supporting that might be nearby that you could run a route with.
- Share your progress on social media and get your friends and family to share them!