Coming to terms with virtual races

Entering foot races provides a tangible event to look forward to.  Races can serve as a motivating factor–in some cases “the why”–propelling us to have a reason to train and stay mentally and physically sharp. 

This year has changed all of that.  Over this 2020 Labor Day weekend, I just completed my virtual Boston Marathon.  I’ve earned the privilege (always through qualification) to run this prestigious event 11 straight years and 12 overall.  Like many that were preparing for April’s 2020 event, just a few short weeks before the scheduled race it was re-scheduled to September.  Eventually, the race–like so many other races–was cancelled altogether.  Frustrating to say the least.

I was not at my best for this past Saturday’s virtual Boston.  The summer heat here in the Midwest did not disappoint, I got a bit lazy the second half of my race and my motivational factors were a bit low–resulting a lower overall effort than I intended.  All of that said, I got it done, used it as a training opportunity and am glad I participated in the 124th running of the world’s greatest race.

Like so many other runners, I’ve gone through a series of emotions related to cancelled races, especially after training hard to prepare for events only to be faced with cancellations out of my control.  In 2020 alone, I’ve run 3 virtual marathon races in a span of less than 3 months–in two instances with cancellations in the heart of my scheduled training.

I’ve come to terms with the current environment by focusing on the following:

  1.  Take the long view.  At the end of the day, these are only races and not life and death.  Eventually, things will normalize, races will return to what we once knew and as runners we’ll celebrate the opportunity to return to events we enjoy.  As runners we can be an impatient bunch (at least I am!); that said, take a breath, step back and see things for what they are–all while continuing to train and be grateful we can do what we do.
  2. Reflect on why we run.  I don’t run because of a particular race; I run because it’s a part of my lifestyle and something I enjoy (not every single run, but most of the time 🙂  ).  With race cancellations and the current state of things, I’ve been able to reconnect with “the why” in a manner that I would not have otherwise done.  Reconnect with your “why” in a manner that allows you to move forward in a positive manner.
  3. View it as an opportunity.  Use the current time to try new and different things associated with running.  Maybe it’s adding trails to the mix; adding more speed work or tempo work; mixing in new strength training exercises or the like.  View this time as an opportunity to expand your horizons, experiment with training, and hopefully add new things to your training repertoire that you will utilize in the future.  I’ve been able to personally do this–adding what I call “Zatopek Tuesdays” to my training–and it’s been a refreshing change.
  4.  Virtual races still count!  Whatever distance you are doing, count it as an official race.  I sense that some out there don’t give full credit to a “virtual” race as one would an “official” race.  Why is that? I get it that there are not crowds, maybe not the adrenaline of a race with other runners and fans to cheer you on.  But a specific distance is still a specific distance.  For my virtual marathons, I’m counting them as “official” and have the results on my Garmin to prove it.  Grinding out 26.2 miles is still the same distance.  That’s all I need.  I recommend you do the same.  

So…try to come to terms with the current environment.  Stay positive, stay motivated and keep showing up.

Happy Running!



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