Tips for Running a Virtual Marathon?

#1
Hey folks!

I have a virtual Berlin Marathon on the calendar for later this month and one of my biggest concerns about running a virtual race is the lack of aid stations. I would really prefer to avoid carrying fluids with me and I have tentatively tricked my fiancee into manning an aid station for me. I wish I could trick her into cycling alongside of me, like I was Kipchoge but she's reminded me that I don't have a sponsorship deal...

Am I crazy to try this on a 400m track? The upsides are that I can very easily absolutely micromanage my pace and getting water is probably very easy (have her hand me a waterbottle that I can just chuck back to her on the infield). The downsides are likely the insane boredom that comes from running 105+ laps and possibly the physical toll of that many corners?

Should I opt for a longer one mile loop on the road? This provides some improvement on the entertainment front and minimizes the toll of all that cornering, but hand-offs and returns are probably a little trickier here. Is their a third option I am not considering? Any tips or advice are appreciated.
 
#2
I think running it on the track sounds like great fun. Maybe you can switch the direction of the laps once or twice to help minimize the toll on your body and mind from the curves. I’m not a marathoner, but I’m guessing logistically you could even do a flat 5k loop and have enough aid.
 
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#3
The frequency of need for fluids is really the only thing determining the size of the loop. The track provides the greatest access because I am only ever 400 meters away from a drink if I need it. On really hot days (75+) I like to take in an ounce or two of fluids every mile when racing anything over a half.

Thankfully temperatures here have really plummeted in the past week, so that's a new (good) curveball that will make a big difference in figuring this all out. We have gone from highs in the 80's to highs in the 60's. There is definitely a novelty factor that comes from the track but I think I am leaning towards running this on the road. High school sports have resumed here and they have a habit of shutting down the track for their practices even if the team isn't actually using the track. I would hate to get booted off mid-effort if the football team needs to do push-ups.
 

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#4
The frequency of need for fluids is really the only thing determining the size of the loop. The track provides the greatest access because I am only ever 400 meters away from a drink if I need it. On really hot days (75+) I like to take in an ounce or two of fluids every mile when racing anything over a half.

Thankfully temperatures here have really plummeted in the past week, so that's a new (good) curveball that will make a big difference in figuring this all out. We have gone from highs in the 80's to highs in the 60's. There is definitely a novelty factor that comes from the track but I think I am leaning towards running this on the road. High school sports have resumed here and they have a habit of shutting down the track for their practices even if the team isn't actually using the track. I would hate to get booted off mid-effort if the football team needs to do push-ups.
@imnothammer,

Just wanted to check-in here. Are you doing this on the 27th? Did you decide on the Track or the road?

Justin
RW Staff
 
#5
@imnothammer,

Just wanted to check-in here. Are you doing this on the 27th? Did you decide on the Track or the road?

Justin
RW Staff
Running on the 26th as my one woman support squad got called in to work on Sunday.

I am still leaning towards the track (the idea of micromanaging my pace has really grown on me) but I just emailed the local high school and it seems they will be closing down the track from 12 - 4 that day for a soccer scrimmage. I can definitely get my run in before then but I doubt my fiancee will be jazzed about waking up that early. We will see how successful I am there but it seems like this one will be on the road. I have a ~2.5 mile loop planned near a local beach. Super flat roads and nice scenery. Temperatures have been just awesome lately so I am a little less concerned about my fluid intake during the run.

I picked up a minor hamstring injury last week that I have been trying to take care of (it's never easy, is it?). I had my sights set on a 3:15 finish when I first began this training cycle but I think I still would be really thrilled if I wrapped up in under 3:20.
 

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#6
Running on the 26th as my one woman support squad got called in to work on Sunday.

I am still leaning towards the track (the idea of micromanaging my pace has really grown on me) but I just emailed the local high school and it seems they will be closing down the track from 12 - 4 that day for a soccer scrimmage. I can definitely get my run in before then but I doubt my fiancee will be jazzed about waking up that early. We will see how successful I am there but it seems like this one will be on the road. I have a ~2.5 mile loop planned near a local beach. Super flat roads and nice scenery. Temperatures have been just awesome lately so I am a little less concerned about my fluid intake during the run.

I picked up a minor hamstring injury last week that I have been trying to take care of (it's never easy, is it?). I had my sights set on a 3:15 finish when I first began this training cycle but I think I still would be really thrilled if I wrapped up in under 3:20.
Thanks for the update, @imnothammer.

I was going to suggest a road loop. The most I've run for distance on a track was 16 miles. I was young and did not change directions. So, you can imagine how I felt after that.

A friend of mine would leave "support bags" along his long run routes. That is not ideal for a lot of reasons in your situation. Also, lets be honest, it isn't really ideal in too many situations. However, it is an option.

It sounds like you have a solid plan with a ~2.5 loop. Bummed to hear about the hamstring though. You are right. It rarely is easy.

What are you planning on using for the event (shoes, gear, etc)?

Keep us updated on the plan and progress. Excited to hear how everything goes.


Justin
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#7
All set up with gear!

My Vaporfly 4%s still have life but this will probably be a last hurrah for them. I also picked up the Nike BTC Singlet from you folks and it might be the most comfortable singlet I own now (the Saucony Inferno has been dethroned!) Other than that, I will be running with a simple SPIBelt to hold some Clif Bloks and my phone. I made the switch from an ancient Apple Watch to a Garmin 245 and have been really, really happy with that.

The hamstring is definitely a big question mark but I am cautiously optimistic after getting through yesterday's workout without any issues. Still some unusual tightness/minor pain but I am cautiously optimistic that it will subside.
 
#8
A marathon itself seems like enough repetitive stress without the amount of turns (and all in the same direction unless you turn around) on a 400m track, as Justin's experience revealed. Personally, I would shoot for a 2-7 mile road loop, though I may not perceive the same hydration preference. On a longer loop, you can have a series of smaller handheld flasks/bottles ready to pick up, drink, and exchange/drop off each time you pass the aid drop. Take good care of that hammy! My right one has been suspect for well over a decade.

Incidentally, I am considering running a non-race marathon this winter. I mapped a route between two local hilltops that is 6.5 miles one way, with my home in the middle. There would be no time goal with four large climbs at altitude.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 

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#9
All set up with gear!

My Vaporfly 4%s still have life but this will probably be a last hurrah for them. I also picked up the Nike BTC Singlet from you folks and it might be the most comfortable singlet I own now (the Saucony Inferno has been dethroned!) Other than that, I will be running with a simple SPIBelt to hold some Clif Bloks and my phone. I made the switch from an ancient Apple Watch to a Garmin 245 and have been really, really happy with that.

The hamstring is definitely a big question mark but I am cautiously optimistic after getting through yesterday's workout without any issues. Still some unusual tightness/minor pain but I am cautiously optimistic that it will subside.
Definitely all set with gear! That is a solid line-up.

Out of curiosity, how many miles have you been able to get out of your 4%? I've heard a pretty wide range of numbers. So, I'm always curious.

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#10
Call it a successful DNF.

I ended up just running a half this weekend. 10% of that was unfavorable conditions (heat/humidity), 40% of that was caution (hamstring felt great but was nervous to reinjure it if I pushed it), and then the remaining 50% was honestly a bit of low morale/laziness... outside of the authentic race environment I am still finding it difficult to maintain enthusiasm (or suffer through) sustained hard efforts for distances greater than the half.

Even though I didn't run the full, I was REALLY happy with my splits and comfort level. I took the first mile out a little quick in 7:10 and then consciously dialed it back to 7:30. From there on out I was just cruising with some metronome splits all around 7:20 +/-2 seconds. No pain in my hamstring, which had really been bothering me over the past few weeks, and only a faint tightness. I didn't really want to tempt fate on a race that ultimately didn't "count" for anything.

Fitness-wise, I suspect the heat/humidity on the day would have caught up with me after Mile 20. I came through the half in just over 1:37 and, while I still felt really comfortable, it was not going to be a negative split day. If I had to guess, I probably would have landed somewhere around 3:20 which is the slower end of what I would have considered a success on the day.

Ultimately I am trying for a BQ in the next year and it seems like a bit of a moonshot to shave off 15 to 20 minutes in that amount of time. Between Mt. Hood and Berlin I will have two shots at this in June and September. Here's the optimist in me speaking, I am holding out hope that I am still a ways off from my ceiling and that progress may come in a wild spurt. Sustaining a 7:00 pace still seems unthinkable, but ask me how I feel about that in June!

Oh, and I checked my NRC app, it looks like that run just pushed me over the 200 mile mark in the 4%s. The upper still feels fantastic but the soles are have begun to show some serious wear, despite still feeling like they've got life in them. I will work them into my training rotation until they're truly gone but they will definitely be replaced before any other race.
 
#11
Call it a successful DNF.

I ended up just running a half this weekend. 10% of that was unfavorable conditions (heat/humidity), 40% of that was caution (hamstring felt great but was nervous to reinjure it if I pushed it), and then the remaining 50% was honestly a bit of low morale/laziness... outside of the authentic race environment I am still finding it difficult to maintain enthusiasm (or suffer through) sustained hard efforts for distances greater than the half.
I feel ya! I will be happy just to muster up a 5K TT this autumn/winter, so you're definitely well ahead of me. Kudos on pulling out a satisfying B goal from the effort. (y)
 

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#12
Call it a successful DNF.

I ended up just running a half this weekend. 10% of that was unfavorable conditions (heat/humidity), 40% of that was caution (hamstring felt great but was nervous to reinjure it if I pushed it), and then the remaining 50% was honestly a bit of low morale/laziness... outside of the authentic race environment I am still finding it difficult to maintain enthusiasm (or suffer through) sustained hard efforts for distances greater than the half.

Even though I didn't run the full, I was REALLY happy with my splits and comfort level. I took the first mile out a little quick in 7:10 and then consciously dialed it back to 7:30. From there on out I was just cruising with some metronome splits all around 7:20 +/-2 seconds. No pain in my hamstring, which had really been bothering me over the past few weeks, and only a faint tightness. I didn't really want to tempt fate on a race that ultimately didn't "count" for anything.

Fitness-wise, I suspect the heat/humidity on the day would have caught up with me after Mile 20. I came through the half in just over 1:37 and, while I still felt really comfortable, it was not going to be a negative split day. If I had to guess, I probably would have landed somewhere around 3:20 which is the slower end of what I would have considered a success on the day.

Ultimately I am trying for a BQ in the next year and it seems like a bit of a moonshot to shave off 15 to 20 minutes in that amount of time. Between Mt. Hood and Berlin I will have two shots at this in June and September. Here's the optimist in me speaking, I am holding out hope that I am still a ways off from my ceiling and that progress may come in a wild spurt. Sustaining a 7:00 pace still seems unthinkable, but ask me how I feel about that in June!

Oh, and I checked my NRC app, it looks like that run just pushed me over the 200 mile mark in the 4%s. The upper still feels fantastic but the soles are have begun to show some serious wear, despite still feeling like they've got life in them. I will work them into my training rotation until they're truly gone but they will definitely be replaced before any other race.
@imnothammer,

Thank you for the update!

That first line really threw me off. I'm not sure I have ever heard that term, but I may end up using it after reading your post.

I'm glad to hear you listened to your body on this. It sounds like you had a solid day out there and will be able to maintain your health. As runners, we often talk the talk when it comes to "listen to your body" but rarely do we actually walk the walk. I know I've definitely given the advice and then went out and put in more miles than I should have.

It looks to me that you are on your way to a BQ. You definitely have the dedication to get there! I'm excited to follow along that journey with you through the message board. So, thank you for sharing.

Also, thanks for the info on the 4%. I've heard a fair amount of people saying around 150 miles. The 200 mile mark is really solid based on what I've heard.


Justin
RW Staff
 
#13
Last month I did what I guess you can consider a "marathon time trial". I pretty much found a park/trail route that was a 6.2 mile loop. It was perfect for me so i ended up placing some water bottles on the windshield of my car so I could hydrate after every loop. I only ended up taking 4 gels and all things considered being a solo run with no real motivation my time was only 7 minutes off what I ran the NYC marathon last year. I just wanted to get a time trial in since i had been training for a marathon for 3 months but all got cancelled. I was thinking of doing it down a 60 mile trail near me but it would have required me to wear my hydration vest which would be way too difficult at the speeds I was looking to go. I have run 35 miles in a hydration vest but that was a slow trail pace. Having that vest for 26 miles at sub 7/mile pace I think would be too much.
 
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