Sunday, January 23, 2022

What is it Like to Run a Virtual Half-Marathon?

What is it like to run a virtual half-marathon?

Last year, I signed up to run a new half-marathon in my town. The Hot Chocolate Half-Marathon. I was super excited! At the time I signed up, I didn't think too much about it despite Covid being around. I was under the impression, Covid would be relatively scarce by the time the race rolled around. However, as the race date approached, there was now the new Omicron version of Covid. I can't afford to get Covid, so I decided to switch my entry to the virtual option. I was just too nervous to go and run with a large group of people, huffing, puffing and spitting all around me. The race did take precautions: Staggered starts, mandatory masks at the starting line, etc...but we all know all well people pay attention to mask mandates, right? 

Running a virtual half-marathon wasn't too different than going out for a long run. That is until I got to mile 10. This is usually when I grab a water or a Gatorade at the aid station. However, there was no aid station. But, let's start at the beginning: First off, I got to where I'd run but unlike an actual event, there was no crowds. No music. No porta potties for last minute pre-race tummy issues. It was just like I was going for a regular run. I tried to do my usual pre-race routine and it did get me psyched up, but not nearly as much as the usual energy felt at the start of a race.

The next obvious difference was that there were no mile markers or people telling you were to go. I know, I know. It's a virtual race so I was just required to cover the distance. Not the actual course. But call me old fashioned, but I ran the actual course. It was all along the greenways here in town so it was easy to look at the map and see what was what. The only exception is I wasn't 100% sure of the start and finish lines or where exactly the turnaround was at but I had a pretty good idea since it lined up with building I was familiar with. I figured as long as I was at the right mileage when I turned around, I'd be ok. 

I don't know about you, but my GPS watch is not the most reliable. In fact, when I go back and look at my route on my training runs, it has me running through buildings, cutting through people's yards, etc...so I know it's not 100% accurate. But when I got to the turnaround and my watch said I still had another tenth of a mile to go, I was a little upset. I'm still not convinced my half was 13.1. I think I actually ran more like 13.2 (which by definition, would be a half-ultra, since anything over a marathon is considered an ultra....LOL)

I had mentioned that since it was virtual, there were no aid stations. I knew this, of course, but I normally don't run more than 10 and have not felt the need for a water stop. However, yesterday, around mile 11, I sure could have used one. I know there are things I could have done. Planned ahead a left a water bottle in a tree. Wore a camel pack. But honestly, I'm lazy and that felt like a lot of effort to try an plan for.

To wrap this up, there's normally people at the finish line to give you a boost. Heck. There's normally a finish line! So I had to keep looking at my watch to see when it hit 13.1. I actually know fairly accurately how many steps I take to cover a tenth of a mile so I wasn't constantly looking, but still. Besides no  visual marker of a finish line, there was of course, no post race snacks. No free bananas which I know we all live for. And worst of all, I had to cut up my own orange! 

Don't get me wrong. It felt great to get out there an run a Half again. The last time I ran a half-marathon was in 2013. In January 2018, I ran a 10K with my son but I had not trained in forever. After the 10K, I had horrible plantar fasciitis which became very stubborn. In fact, I pretty much didn't run for the remainder of 2018. In 2019 I decided to get back into running but every time I made some progress, it would come back. Recently, I made some changes and I was able to get back to running pain free again, but that's for a different blog post. 

All in all, as I said, I'm super happy I can run 13.1 miles non-stop. However, I don't think I'd do a virtual half again. A 5K or even a 10K? Sure. No problem. But I just found the virtual half a bit lonely. 

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