How to Run your Best Virtual Race with Coach Liz Crain

With many races being cancelled or postponed many runners have been wondering “What do I do now?” The answer to that for many has been to run virtual races. Virtual races are just that, races that are run virtually. The best thing about virtual races is that they can be run anywhere at any time. Most virtual races have a deadline that you’re expected to complete the race by and can be completed wherever you want. Results are submitted by uploading or screenshotting your Strava or watch data. Virtual races offer all the swag of a regular race including race day shirts, medals, bibs, and more! With so many different virtual races available to us, we can still lace up and get ready to race. Here’s how you can run your best virtual race!

Plan Your Route

The great thing about virtual races is that you’re in complete control of everything! This means you also get to decide on the course. If you’re aiming to run a PR you could design a course that is flat or downhill. If you’re looking for a challenge you could design a course with a lot of vertical gain. You have the freedom to design the course to be whatever you want it to be!

It would be best to try to design a course that minimizes the numbers of stops you’ll need to take (e.g. stoplights, crosswalks) to simulate a race setting. You can easily plan your route by using websites like or other run mapping apps.

Treat it Like a “Real” Race

Prep like you would for a “real” in person race. This could mean having a special pre-race dinner and breakfast, laying out your race kit the night before, and/or doing a shakeout run before your race. If you go into the race treating it like how you would treat any other race you’ll have more drive to race it like a real race, but if you go into it treating it like a regular old run, you may not have the motivation to keep going at your planned race pace.

Have Someone Pace You

One of the best parts of running a race is having other people to race and compete with. Of course with a virtual race you won’t have this same competition to push you. A good way to snag a PR in a virtual race is to have someone pace you. Have a fast friend pace you for your race or have someone pace you on a bike. Either way, having someone there to support you makes a big difference!

Don’t Pause Your Watch

You want your virtual race to simulate a real race, which means you should refrain from pausing your watch when you need to stop. You wouldn’t be able to pause time during a normal race, so to keep everything honest, it’s best not to pause your watch for a virtual race either. If you do have to pause your watch report your elapsed time and not your moving time when reporting the race time.

Treat Yourself Afterwards

Treat yourself after running a hard race. Normally there would be plenty of after race festivities, but when you run a virtual race, you have to make up your own after race festivities. Many activities may be limited due to the ongoing pandemic, so restaurants and bars may not be an option for everyone right now. Good options for after race festivities right now include: Getting take-out from your favorite restaurant, picking up some wine or beer from a local shop, or making your own spa day.

Don’t Go Overboard!

With so many virtual races available, it’s easy to register for all of them and race all of them! I’m not going to stop you from registering for all of them, but I would advise that you don’t race all of them at an all-out effort. Racing all of your runs could lead to higher chances of injury and over training. It would be best to pick a goal race and run that one race at your race effort. If you want to sign up for other virtual races you still can! Just treat the other virtual races as training runs rather than racing them.

Liz Crain is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Liz, check out her coaching page.

virtual race medal