How I Ran My First Corona Virtual Race
Updated: Sep 15
I safely ran the Blue Ridge Marathon in my neighborhood.
At mile 16. Photo by Jon Gilbert
I was excited to be one of the winners of a free registration to the Blue Ridge marathon during a fun running related Q & A hour on Twitter hosted by @Bib Rave.
I was looking forward to running Blue Ridge, dubbed “America’s toughest road marathon” on April 18 along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia with over 7,000 ft of elevation gain. The time-limit for this tough marathon is 7.5 hours.
Then the coronavirus struck and running events were cancelled including the Blue Ridge marathon. I had the option to defer it and run it in 2021 or to run it virtually.
I trained for it so, I chose to run it virtually on mostly flat terrain — my neighborhood.
This is how I did it on April 19, 2020.
While tapering, I measured an unofficial .75 mile loop (according to my FitBit) from my house on Sunset Dr. to Cornell Dr. and back down to my house. I called this distance the “house loop.”
I measured an unofficial .88 loop from my house. This time from Sunset Dr, to past the lake on the right, to Paradise Dr., to Moonlite Ct, back to Paradise, then to Sunset past the lake again, to Cornell Dr., to Yale Dr., and back to my house. I called this distance the “lake loop.”
I began my virtual 26.2 miles at 9:09 am on a beautiful sunny but breezy Sunday on the .75 mile loop. I logged 3 miles (4 laps).
Then I switched loops and ran 4 laps on the “lake loop” (3.5 miles).
I continued alternating between loops — 4 laps on the “house loop” and 4 laps on the “lake loop” through out my virtual marathon.
I ran safely with my Buff to cover my nose and mouth.
I practiced physical distancing. It wasn’t hard as only a handful of neighbors were out, and a few were mowing their lawns.
Aid Station, Calories, and Hydration
My lawn and the dogwood tree at the bottom of our driveway was the site of my aid station.
Here I fueled on a leftover turkey sub, almond chocolate chip cookies, Ritz crackers, potato chips, avocado slices, oranges, cantaloupe, ice cold seltzer, dark chocolate almond milk, and lemon-lime Nuun hydration for electrolytes.
The aid station was manned by my husband Jon. He also rode his Elliptigo by my side the last nine miles.
I sat in my pink chair to duct tape a recurring hot spot on my right foot, first at mile 15 and again at mile 21.
DuctTaped hot spot at mile 15. Photo by Jon Gilbert
The best thing about running a solo virtual race in your neighborhood is your own private bathroom. No race site porta-potties on race day, and no lines.
Before the coronavirus struck, I’d run and train across a couple of towns, and use the bathroom at Dunkin’ Donuts or CVS.
There is no official clock or timekeeper in a virtual race of this kind.
To prove that I ran 26.2 miles, all I needed to do was post anything — my finish, my miles on any tracking app — on social media with #runblueridge.
I was well prepared to track my miles. I had my FitBit. I also downloaded RunKeeper on my iPhone. My iPhone automatically records my distances and miles.
Unfortunately, 10 miles in, I hit a snag. My fully-charged phone started to run out of juice. The RunKeeper app had drained the battery.
I finished the lap and went into my house to charge my phone. Then I kept running and my FitBit was still going strong and logging my miles, time, and pace. A few miles later, I went back in the house to retrieve my charged phone.
Then another unexpected glitch much later on.
My FitBit died at mile 24.74!
Usually, my FitBit dies between mile 30 and 33 during my ultramarathon races. I’ve done 25 mile training runs with no problem.
On this day, the screen went gray. I couldn’t believe it! But I wasn’t upset because FitBit records and stores everything in the app.
I walked a half mile back to my house. I inserted my FitBit in the charger and took a screen shot of my recorded miles on the FitBit app — 24.74 miles.
In about 15 minutes my FitBit was charged and off I went, slow and steady, to finish the last two .75 mile laps on the “house loop” to the virtual marathon finish.
Slowest Marathon Ever!
I synced my Fitbit watch and my last mile and half with the app. According to my FitBit, I covered 26.27 miles in 385 minutes — 6:24 minutes.
My first virtual marathon was my slowest marathon ever. But I was happy!
I can’t wait to get my Blue Ridge marathon shirt and medal in the mail. I will frame both and document my first virtual race during this historic world coronavirus pandemic.
No Need to Rush the Miles
I am blessed to be healthy and to be running. There was no need to rush the miles on this beautiful Sunday.
Every step was another blessing counted.
I was no stranger to running loops in a neighborhood. A year and a half ago, I ran a one mile loop 60 times on a sunny but cold December day in my daughter’s neighborhood to celebrate my 60th birthday and as a healing run for my husband Jon who was tackling stage 4 cancer at the time.
I dedicated my first virtual race to all affected by the corona virus. This virtual race was also a race of gratitude. I am grateful for my health. I am grateful that my husband beat cancer.
Next Virtual Race
Now it’s on to my next virtual race — my first virtual ultramarathon. I’ll be tackling the cancelled Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (D3) 24 hour track ultra on Mother’s Day weekend.
Runners can run a 50K (31 miles) or more miles virtually. Last year, it rained the last 11 hours at D3. I logged 81 miles.
I will run a 50K and keep going as long as I can in my neighborhood. Hopefully, it won’t rain.
A third race is also cancelled — The Greater New York (TGNY) 100 miler/100K in June. It’s deferred until June 19, 2021. I’ll run it then.
In the meantime, I’ll log 100K (62 miles) in the comfort of my neighborhood on the “house loop” and the “lake loop” on June 20, 2020.
Slow and Steady
If you are permitted to be outside in the time of corona, practice physical distancing and safely run/walk a solo virtual race — from a 5K to a 50K and beyond in your neighborhood. And wear a face mask.
Slow and steady finishes the race.
Watch my video capturing moments of my virtual Blue Ridge Marathon on my YouTube Channel.
This article was originally published In Medium.
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