Race report: Virtual 10k

My race calendar has been a bit patchy this year. After the spring Half, it was a pretty quiet summer and before I knew it autumn had arrived.

While parkruns have been a great (and free) filler, I was itching to commit to a race and had my sights on another 10k. Problem was, my schedule didn't fit in with many races. Then work commitments quashed the one Autumn 10k race left in my window.

This is when I turned to virtual running. Virtual races have been on my to-do-list for a while. I've always loved the idea of setting your own race conditions, especially if you live too far away or can't afford race entry. It may seem boring or not 'real' enough for some, but given that your biggest obstacle is your own mind, creating your own race is a challenge we can all relish.

My POW Virtual Running medal

Think about it. You probably won't have the same adrenaline boost you get standing at the start line with hundreds or thousands of other runners. And if you're running solo, you have no peers to spur you on. Unless you can drag loved ones out to cheer from the side, you won't have spectator encouragement either. So committing to your own personal race with a PB target means you have to dig deep in a completely different way.

That said, you don't have to go to great lengths to create your own race if you don't want to. Some people simply get out and run like they would any other week; others use parkrun. You can make of it whatever you want, and that's the best thing about virtual running.

For my 10k virtual run, I settled somewhere in the middle. I wanted to train for a race and build up to the big day with the usual schedule, excitement and carbs. I don't like to get too hung up on PBs, but I knew I wanted a sub-70min. This was the finish time of my first 10k and seeing as it had been a while since I worked on speed, I'd be happy to beat that.

The race
Race day. I opted for my old haunt, Cardiff Bay. I was longing for the flat, smooth roads of Atlantic Wharf, the Barrage and Penarth Marina. The early morning freshness and light cloud cover made for ideal conditions. Warmed up, excited/nervous and my Garmin signal locked (you need to submit evidence of your run), I was off.

Cardiff Bay

I was excited/nervous for a couple of reasons. I obviously wanted to do well, and my recalcitrant knee is always in the back of my mind before any race. But I was also excited to be... alone.

Like many, I love running with others. I get so much out of it: camaraderie, motivation and PBs to name a few. But I also love the solitude of running. The idea of racing alone sounded delightfully self-indulgent. This race was just me, for me. 

The Barrage between Cardiff Bay and Penarth

Aside from circling/waiting for a bridge to reopen in the marina, everything went well for the most part. I checked my watch and had done four miles in 40 minutes. I was pretty chuffed with this and pondered if I could hit a sub-65, or maybe even 60.

Maybe this was a lesson in getting sucked into timings and ego, because just a few minutes later my IT band started grumbling. This was inevitably followed by warning signs in my right knee. Time to slow down.

Resorting to a walk-run for the rest of the way, I battled my demons to tell myself I didn't care. It was way more important to look after my knee so I could run another day than do irreparable damage. It also gave me time to think about what I was doing. I  noticed, as I had fatigued, my stride had lengthened and thrown my gait out. For the last quarter-mile, I ran pain-free by increasing my cadence. So, all was not lost. I had my battle and won, and learned a few things along the way.

Checking my Garmin, I completed the race in 67 minutes. Given my original target and mid-race ITBS, this was bloody brilliant.

It's easy to submit evidence with photos or screen grabs

The reward
There aren't many downsides to a virtual run, but a lack of a goodie bag at the end is one. Rewards are the best way to convince your brain it's worth doing it all again. On my next virtual race, I'll organise treats for myself or get my husband to prepare a mystery goodie bag.

You also have to be prepared to wait a couple of weeks between submitting your evidence (a screen grab or photo will do), and receiving your medal in the post. But it is worth it.

I logged my run with POW Virtual Running. They had a race option that suited me and their medals looked pretty good. Logging my run was quick and easy, and I received email updates which built excitement all over again.

My POW medal is now proudly hanging on the wall and I can't wait to do the Winter 5k!

Sign up to a race with POW Virtual Running



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