Why I’m not interested in running a virtual race

With races this spring getting canceled left and right because of coronavirus concerns, many race directors are offering up an alternative to runners who still want to earn their T-shirts and medals: A virtual race. 

A virtual race allows participants to run their race, well, virtually anywhere they choose. For example, the Coastal Delaware Running Festival offered entrants a virtual option when they decided to cancel next month’s race. Had I chosen to switch my registration to the virtual race, I could have run my marathon at home and then gotten my T-shirt and medal in the mail in a few weeks. 

Instead, I deferred my entry until the 2021 race. I have really no interest in running a virtual race. 

Why? I just can’t see myself paying actual money for something that doesn’t seem like a real race to me. I mean, I can just run whatever distance that is for free (though I don’t see myself ever running 26.2 miles just for the hell of it, as I’ll explain in a little bit.) For example, the Across the Bay 10K offered a virtual option in 2019 when the road race was canceled due to Bay Bridge construction. I was super bummed — I was one of the race’s legacy runners, meaning I’d run it every single year that it took place, from 2014 through 2018. 

But at the same time, I also didn’t want to pay a race fee to run 6.2 miles and get a medal in the mail. I have enough medals, it’s not like I would have been able to run across the bridge (the whole allure of that race!) and I can run 6.2 miles any old day. Not interested! 

And I REALLY don’t see myself paying money for a virtual marathon. First of all, I may have run seven marathons, but every one is still a BIG deal to me. Marathons involve a ton of training. They involve a ton of commitment. They involve a ton of energy gels, LOL. And at the end of all those weeks of training and commitment and energy gels, the race is like a big celebration. I love lining up with other runners at the start line and seeing the crowds cheering us on and high-fiving little kids and reading the funny signs spectators hold up. I love hamming it up for the race photographers (when I see them — when I don’t, I usually look like I’m about to pass a kidney stone or something). I love the exhilaration of crossing the finish line and taking my bottle of water and medal from a smiling race volunteer. 

You don’t get any of that at a virtual race. 

And above all that, my goal for Coastal Delaware was to qualify for Boston. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the Boston Athletic Association doesn’t accept virtual race times as BQs. So the last thing I wanted to do is race a marathon to the best of my ability, get a Boston qualifying time and know that I can’t use it! 

Yes, I realize I could just run a virtual race as a “fun run,” but why would I do that when I spent all those weeks training? 

So virtual races really aren’t my thing, but based on my social media feeds, a lot of my runner friends are doing them to make up for their races being canceled. 

If you’re running a virtual race this spring, which one(s) are you running? What do you like about virtual races?

Coronavirus and running: How COVID-19 spoiled my spring racing plans

About three weeks ago, Micah and I got into an argument over the Coastal Delaware Running Festival. 

“You know that’s not going to be happening,” he said. “Coronavirus is coming here and that race is going to be canceled.” 

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. (At this point, COVID-19 was merely a threat overseas, though I knew it was likely to show up in the U.S.) 

“No, it’s not. It will be here and we are not equipped to deal with it,” he said. “I would look for another marathon just in case, and soon.” 

I kept on training for Coastal Delaware, and news about the coronavirus continued to swirl. Doesn’t the flu kill more people? I thought. Why would this lead to cancellations of events like races? 

Micah and I kept arguing about it. “I’m in the best shape of my life and I know I can qualify for Boston again,” I told him. “Yeah, that may be true, but coronavirus doesn’t care,” he retorted. 

And last week, I started to get nervous. Speculation that the Boston Marathon would be canceled for the first time ever caused a ruckus in numerous running groups I belong to on Facebook. There were people in Maryland who were tested for COVID-19 infection. The first confirmed cases of the virus began to appear in my area, and the governor declared a State of Emergency. 

So, with a week and a half ago, I signed up for the B&A Trail Marathon.

And then this week, everything blew up. 

Public schools in Maryland are closed for two weeks beginning Monday. Restrictions were placed on visitors to hospitals across the state. Public gatherings of more than 250 people have been banned in an attempt to stop the virus from infecting more people in Maryland (as of this post, there are 17 confirmed cases.) The NBA and the NHL suspended their seasons. MLB’s Opening Day has been pushed back at least two weeks.

On Wednesday, the Annapolis Striders announced B&A was canceled. The next evening, Coastal Delaware followed suit. And so did just about every road race in the DMV and beyond. The St. Patrick’s Day 5K Staci and I were going to run in Allentown, Pennsylvania got canceled. The Get Pumped For Pets race on the Eastern Shore has been postponed. (I co-authored a story about the coronavirus and race cancellations for RunWashington, but it’s largely out of date now.)

I contemplated continuing to search for another marathon to save my hard work from going to waste — the Pittsburgh Marathon in May is still on as of this writing, but I feel like it’s only a matter of time until that gets canceled, too. There’s really no point in registering. I’m still registered for the Chicago and Philly marathons this fall, and I assume things will have calmed down by then — but that’s outside of the Boston 2021 qualifying window, so I’ll have to shoot for 2022. 

(As an aside, the Boston Athletic Association announced today that they are postponing the 2020 marathon until September. Totally the right decision — runners work way too hard to get there to have that just taken away from them!)

I’m bummed out, but I also recognize that these are steps that we need to take to hopefully prevent a major public health crisis. Am I worried about getting COVID-19? Not really. I’m very healthy and rarely get sick. I can’t even recall the last time I was seriously ill. I am pretty sure that if I got coronavirus, I’d be like the vast majority of people who get it and recover relatively quickly. Maybe I’d barely notice the symptoms. The bigger concern is passing it along to someone who is not as healthy and has a compromised immune system. I don’t want to get the virus and then pass it on to someone who could develop pneumonia and die. 

And is running Boston 2021 really THAT important? I ran the marathon last year. I loved it. Seriously, the day I ran the Boston Marathon is easily among my favorite days ever. But there are so many more Bostons to come and I know I have so many more chances to qualify and run from Hopkinton to Boston. 

Lining up at the start of the 2019 Boston Marathon
I was just so excited to be running the Boston Marathon!

It sucks, because I really thought a BQ and a marathon PR were mine next month. But I’ll dial back on my training (I’ll still keep on running a lot — I just won’t be following any kind of training plan at the moment) and then kick it back up again in June to prepare for Chicago. My calendar is now clear of races until the Get Pumped For Pets 15K and the St. Michael’s Half Marathon, both in May. We’ll see if things are back to normal then — I know there is a chance they won’t be. (Hence my hesitation at signing up for Pittsburgh.)

At the end of the day, it’s just running. I’ll keep on doing it because I love it and look forward to the day that I can race again. Because that day will come!   

Recapping the Bigfoot Endurance 10-Miler + an update on a last-minute marathon

First of all, I’d like to start out by saying that I love the idea of trail running. I love being out in the woods — hiking in places like Shenandoah National Park is one of my favorite leisure activities. I love the peacefulness and solitude. I love the scenery. And I admire the relaxed vibe of trail runners and the fact that trail runs always seemed to be followed by craft beer. I can totally get on board with that. 

Problem is, I’m just not very good at trail running! Or, I should say I’m just a much more comfortable and confident road runner. 

Last weekend, I ran the inaugural Bigfoot Endurance 10 Mile Trail Run with Rip It Events. Bigfoot Endurance’s races raise money for Parkinson’s disease research, and this was Rip It’s first time partnering with them. The race, which also included a 5-mile option, happened to fall on a weekend where I was supposed to run 20 miles one day, 10 the next. So I decided to sign up for the 10-miler, knowing I’d likely be pretty sore from the 20 miler the previous day. 

I actually wasn’t that sore, but man, that race was HARD. It was hilly, though no worse than the Little Patuxent River Run. However, the terrain was pretty uneven, with roots and rocks all over the place. I estimated that I almost fell about a dozen times. And I was running conservatively and trying to watch where I was going! 

The race took place at Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge, Maryland, about a half hour or so from where I live in Anne Arundel County. Even though it’s been an extremely mild winter, temperatures were in the mid-20s on race morning– surprisingly, much colder than Little Patuxent was! Runners were lined up by their estimated pace, and I lined up with the 8-minute/mile group. (I ran my last 10-mile race at a 7:27/mile pace, but that was on pancake flat roads in Delaware. I had no idea what to expect at this race.)

Runners doing the 5-miler ran one loop of the course, and 10-mile runners did two loops. I could tell not even a mile into the race that it was going to be a challenge because of the technical terrain (and I do not own trail running shoes, so I was wearing my trusty Brooks Ghosts.) It was a really pretty course, and we even crossed a few streams. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful, if cold, day. But it was also pretty muddy in some parts, and as I mentioned, there were roots everywhere. By the time I finished my first loop, I was pretty spent and wished I could just be done then. However, I am not a quitter and my marathon training plan did tell me to run 10 miles, so of course I continued. 

I heard later from a fellow Rip It ambassador that one runner had fallen and broken her leg, and I feel like that could have so easily been me! This is no reflection on the race — it was perfectly safe and well-organized — but trail running is just riskier.

At least I knew what to expect with the second loop, but I ended up running it about three minutes slower than my first loop. Maybe the 20-miler the previous day caught up to me, I don’t know. My finish time was 1:28:10, my slowest 10-miler ever by about four minutes, but I didn’t really care too much. I was just glad to have finished uninjured! I came in sixth in my age group and ninth overall female, which I was pleased with. 

Oh, and there was beer afterwards from Hysteria Brewing Co. and a taco truck with vegetarian tacos as an option, so of course I was happy about that! I think if I do this race again, I’ll run the 5-miler. I’m just not coordinated and sure-footed enough for longer trail races. Maybe someday I will be! 

Just thinking of that post-race beer

(As a Rip It Events ambassador, I received a free entry to the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. Contact me for a 15 percent discount off of any 2020 Rip It race!

Signing up for a last-minute marathon

I’m running the B&A Trail Marathon on Sunday, March 15, breaking two big rules I have always followed as a runner. (ETA: This race is on a paved trail, so it’s not really a “trail race” despite the name.)

  1. I don’t run marathons as a way to train for a goal marathon (in this case, the Coastal Delaware Running Festival.)
  2. I don’t run the same marathon twice, unless it’s Boston (I ran B&A two years ago.)

So, why am I doing it? One word: CORONAVIRUS. Unless you are living under a rock, you know about the novel coronavirus/COVID-19, which has spread around the world and has led to cancellations/postponement of events including road races (the Paris Marathon, the Tokyo Marathon, the Rome Marathon…..) I initially wasn’t too worried about Coastal Delaware being canceled; it’s a smallish local race, without a lot of runners traveling from other countries to run it. However, my husband has made me really paranoid and started telling me several weeks ago that I should find a backup marathon in case everything really went to hell and Coastal Delaware was canceled. 

I went back and forth about it and last week, decided to go for it and sign up — and saw on the website that the race was full. Balls. OK, I guess it wasn’t meant to be, I thought. 

But then, two days later, I saw the Annapolis Striders posted on Facebook that there were actually less than 10 spots remaining in the marathon! So with 11 days to go until the race, I registered. 

I figure this could go one of two ways. I know I can run the marathon distance now, but am I ready to run the race I want to run and have been training for? Best case scenario, I have an amazing race, PR the crap out of it and punch my ticket to Boston 2021. Worst case scenario, I have a mediocre-at-best race (as I did in 2018) and then it kind of throws a wrench into my training for Coastal Delaware. (I’m still banking on that race being a go.) It’s a total gamble, and I’m not adequately tapered and I’ve only run one 20-miler (sufficient for a marathon finish, but in my opinion, not sufficient for me to run a marathon PR.) 

But. I am going to go for it. And now I’m pretty excited about it.  So wish me luck!

Update on training for the Coastal Delaware Running Festival

It’s hard to believe that my 8th marathon is now less than two months away, and I’m past the halfway point in my training. This training cycle has gone really well, especially considering that it’s February and winter has yet to show up. We’ve had multiple days in the 50s and 60s, though it has been raining a ton. I am a bit paranoid that a huge Nor’Easter is going to hit Maryland in March — you know, right around the time that I’m supposed to run a 20-mile training run. But that’s what the treadmill is for, right? (Though I shudder at the thought of running 20 miles on a treadmill, ugh.) 

I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 Marathon Training Plan pretty religiously, with a few exceptions — I cut out hill training because the Coastal Delaware Marathon is pancake flat. I am running my Yasso 800s every three weeks and running tempo runs on the weeks that I am not running 800s. This is new for me. I’ve always been a big slacker on tempos, even when I was training to break 1:40 in the half, so I am hoping this is really going to help me reach my goal in the marathon! 

Since I still want to go to kickboxing twice a week, I’m doing an easy paced run before class on Thursdays (no more than three or four miles). I’m following the weekend run schedule exactly, and as you can see from the plan, it gets tougher and tougher — I have three weekends where I am running 20 miles one day and 10 the other. This is what I did when I got my first BQ, so I feel good about it even though I know it’s hard. Two weekends ago, I ran 17 miles on day and eight the next, and didn’t even feel sore. Just tired, like I wanted to sleep for days. This weekend, I have a 19-miler and a 9-miler (the latter at marathon pace) on tap. 

My “A” goal for the race is around a 3:30, which would be a 10-minute BQ and a 5-minute PR — I think it’s totally possible as long as everything goes well on race day. Marathons can be unpredictable, of course. I need a 3:40:00 or better to qualify for Boston, and who knows what the cutoff will be. I’ve seen commentary online from people who think the cutoff is going to be brutal for 2021, what with more people hoping to run the race for its 125th anniversary. But I would definitely be safe with a 10-minute buffer. I’d probably feel safe with anything more than a 5-minute buffer. But again, who knows what race day will bring! Just gotta keep grinding.

Other races on my calendar

On Super Bowl Sunday, I ran Rip It Events’ annual Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K, opting for the 10K. This is a trail race and while I’ve done the half marathon twice before, I didn’t want to risk injuring myself two months before a big goal race. (I’m klutzy.) This was actually the best weather we have EVER had for this race — it’s usually really cold and last year, it was icy in some sections on the trail. But this year, the weather was in the 40s and it was nice and sunny. I planned to run conservatively, and was very happy with my performance — I won my age group, finished fourth overall female and averaged a 7:58 pace for 6.55 miles (the 10K course is a bit long).

If you’re looking for a fun winter race, put this one on your calendar for 2021. It’s always on Super Bowl Sunday and while I can’t guarantee fantastic weather again, I can guarantee beautiful scenery and delicious food and hot chocolate afterwards (we’ve had a taco truck the last few years!) Registration usually opens in December and the race sells out VERY quickly, so watch Rip It Events’ Facebook page for details. 

Next weekend, I’ll be running in Rip It’s second race of the season, the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. This is also a trail race and I’ll be running the 10 miler, as this will be the first of my three 20/10 weekends. I’m pretty excited for it. It’s the first year for this race and it just sold out earlier this week, so it should be a good time! 

(As a Rip It Events ambassador, I received a free entry to the Little Patuxent River Run and the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. Contact me for a 15 percent discount off of any 2020 Rip It race!

On March 22, I’m traveling to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to run a St. Patrick’s Day 5K with Staci in Allentown. I’m excited to see how I do after all the speedwork and tempos I’ve been running– maybe I could squeak under 22 minutes? I know I CAN do it, it’s just the matter of committing to making myself really hurt for 3.1 miles. That’s where I always fall short in 5Ks. 

And then a week later, I’ll run in the Get Pumped For Pets 15K on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I ran the 10K last year and won it, two weeks before Boston. I opted for the 15K this year because it falls on the last of my 20/10 weekends, and a 15K is 9.3 miles, so it fits in nicely! Plus, some of my friends from work are planning to run it, too. (There are 5K and 10K options as well!)  

What runs are you looking forward to this spring?

My running goals for 2020 and a look back at 2019

I ended 2019 doing two of the things that I love the most: Drinking beer and running a race. 

Yes, in that order.

 I love to have a beer or two the night before a race, but I have never had a beer the hour before a race. First time for everything! I had a free race entry to the Fairfax Four Miler on New Year’s Eve through my freelance work with RunWashington, and got to the race about an hour and a half early since I needed to pick up my race bib and premium. Since I had time to kill, my husband and I wandered over to Ornery Beer Company so he could get some wings and have a beer. (He was not running.) I didn’t want to just sit there and sip my water, so I ordered a beer, too — the West Indian Viagra, 7.1 percent ABV, which I knew was risky but the name indicated it would give me stamina, right? Ha.

In the end, it didn’t really have any effect on me aside from me feeling like I had to pee about halfway through the race. I finished in 29:20, meeting my goal of finishing in under a half hour, and I felt really strong. Maybe I can run it again and not drink first and see if I can improve!    

 That race — a rare nighttime race that was an awesome way to start ringing in the new year — capped off a busy 2019. I ran the Boston Marathon and finally broke 1:40 in the half marathon — three different times! I also raced my first triathlon and didn’t drown, and I enjoyed the experience enough that I am going to do it again this June! 

I did a triathlon!
HistoricDrawbridgeHalf
My first time breaking 1:40 in the half!

Looking back at my 2019 goals, I said I wanted to run a fall marathon. I never did that and decided just to stick to Boston this past spring. But in 2020, I am running three marathons — Coastal Delaware on April 19, Chicago on Oct. 11 and Philadelphia on Nov. 22, so I am making up for it. 

Which brings me to my goals for 2020: 

  • I want to qualify for Boston again and I want to PR in the marathon. This is my goal for Coastal Delaware. I need to run 3:40:00 or faster to qualify, as I will be 40 (!) for Boston 2021. In reality, I have no idea what the cutoff will be, so it’s hard to say what I actually need to run to get into the race. I suspect I would be safe with a 3:37 or so, but I want to PR and run sub-3:35 — my “A” goal is around 3:30. I feel like it’s attainable based on my recent half marathon times, and I just finished up week four of Hal Higdon’s Advanced Marathon Training plan, which is what I followed when I BQ’d at the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon in December 2017. I am running with my friend Tammi, who is also shooting for a BQ. She needs 3:35:00 or better, as she is a few years younger than I am. I have to admit that I am a *little* salty that the Boston Athletic Association chopped five minutes off the qualifying standards starting with the 2020 marathon. I was soooo looking forward to that 3:45 standard, but I do understand why they did what they did.

It’s too soon for me to have goals for Chicago and Philly — I registered for both with a projected finish time of 3:40 (might as well dream big, right??), but mostly I want those weekends to be fun girls’ weekends. I’m going to Chicago with my sisters as a belated birthday trip, and I’ll be in Philly with some of my good friends who live in Pennsylvania!  

  • I want to run fewer 5Ks. I ran 10 5Ks in 2019. Including two in one day. Why?! I don’t love shorter distances and I don’t think I do great at them, but I always end up signing up for 5Ks because I have friends who want to run them and then I get FOMO. I am vowing to only sign up for 5Ks that I am excited about! I’m planning on a St. Paddy’s Day 5K with Staci (whose birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day) and I will likely do my annual Turkey Trot in November, but that’s it for now, I swear to God.
  • On that note, I want to to be more selective about my races in general. I love to race, but in previous years, I jumped on the opportunity to run every race that my friends are running (that FOMO again.) I need to be more selective. Racing can take a lot of time and money, and I do think it’s a good use of both of those things, but I also don’t want to burn out.      

On another note, I’m pumped to be back on Rip It Events’ ambassador team for the fourth year in a row. Contact me for 15 percent off any 2020 Rip It race. I’ve also joined Nuun Hydration‘s ambassador team, which is awesome as I have been a loyal user of their products since I was training for my first marathon back in 2015.

Happy 2020! What are your goals for the year?