How To Plan Your Virtual Race Course

Single runner running across a bridge

A virtual race is the perfect opportunity to build your own adventure while enjoying virtual camaraderie. So how do you do it?

Let your goals be your guide.

What do you want out of this race? Think strategically about your current fitness, where you can run and what you want to achieve on your virtual race day.

Do you want to run your first mile? Take 10 seconds off your half marathon PR? Maybe you want to prove that you can make a goal and follow through. Your race might not be about setting a PR. Perhaps you want to run through your favorite neighborhood, wave to friends or family in the area, take a scenic tour of your hometown, or even challenge yourself to run a short loop over and over. No matter your goal, consider an “A” goal to pursue and a “B” goal to fall back on if it’s not your best day or if closures and city ordinances change. And remember to have fun, and pursue the challenge that brings you joy. Read more about how to set goals here.

Choose your race distance.

Participating distances for My Big Run are one mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon (13.1 miles) and marathon (26.2 miles).

Woman running down a trail alone

Pick your course strategically.

With your race goal and distance selected, think about where you want to run. Do your best to avoid obstacles like heavy traffic, construction areas, stop lights and crowds. Flatter is faster, making tracks and greenways ideal for PRs. Trails are often quieter and more secluded (just make sure that the area in which you want to run is open).

It’s also important to consider logistics. Will you be running from home? Driving somewhere? If you need to pee, where will you go?

With a multi-loop course or an out and back, logistics are simple. You can focus on your pace without spending energy on navigation. You can also create your own aid stations that you can pass more than once, such as your own hydration and nutrition station or a discreet place to use the bathroom (alternatively, carry hydration with you on the run). This could be as simple as running by your car to grab a gel or looping by a wooded area for a pit stop.

If you run point-to-point, make plans with a member of your household to pick you up at the end of the course. This person can also serve as your crew. Arrange a meeting spot to refill your water along the way and they can cheer you on to your big finish.

Plan for nutrition and hydration on course

If you’re running in hot weather or for more than an hour, protect yourself from dehydration, which seriously impacts performance (not to mention health). Carry fluids or set up a water stop rather than using a public drinking fountain. You may also want to bring a source of calories, like gels, chews or a drink with calories for fuel. Be a good steward, and remember to not leave any trash in your wake.

Map it out

If you’re going someplace new, try Strava’s route builder to map and measure your course distance. Run or walk the route (or sections of it) ahead of your race to make sure you know where to go.

When out on your recon mission, keep visibility in mind, especially in low light. Be courteous of others you encounter and give everyone as much space as you can safely manage.

Bring your phone. Tell others when and where you’re going. Plus, they may want to cheer for you and take your post-race photo at the end (from a safe distance).

By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.

Keep Reading