I was never a fan of virtual races. But last year made them mainstream. Many of my regular races now have a virtual option. Also, many premiere events that are all but impossible to register for, have thrown open the virtual gates. I still put an asterisk next to my virtual events (the only two people whose opinions matter on this topic is the Race Director’s and the individual Runner…and I still view virtual events in a different category which is a topic for a separate post ).
I found out Boston Marathon had a virtual option this year…for up to 70,000 runners, no qualifying time needed. Some argue that this waters down the achievements of so many who have worked so hard. Others argue that it makes the race more inclusive (which is what our community is all about). It has been a very divisive topic, and I see both sides of the argument. But, opinions aside, the race was available…and I run for bling. So I signed up. I later found that four of the six World Major Marathons had virtual options, and all were happening between late September and early November (Boston, NYC, London, and Tokyo. Chicago and Berlin were only offering in person events). I could not choose between them, so I ended up signing-up for all four. What was I thinking??? Four marathons in six weeks? Well, it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds…
Each race has different rules. They all have different participation window periods. None have time limits, and some allow you to break up your “marathon” into multiple shorter segments(I don’t agree with this…a marathon is a single 26.2 mile run…but the race directors make the rules for what they will accept…and I will use every advantage provided too me). Here’s how the next few months look like.
1-Tokyo Marathon. The first event, and the easiest by far. The window period is four weeks long (9/18-10/16) and running multiple shorter legs is allowed as long as it totals 26.2+ miles. My normal weekend runs will easily cover the needed distance. I will need to use the RunKeeper app and I think that I will need to run with my phone, not just my Garmin or Apple Watch.
2-London Marathon. Second event with a 24 hour window (Oct 3, 12:00 am-11:59 pm BST). You are permitted to break up the race into smaller blocks if you choose. Since I am in the Central time zone, it becomes 6:00 pm to 5:59 pm Central Time). So I plan to set out at 6:01 pm local time and hope to get about 10 miles before it gets too dark. I can then go to sleep, and finish the rest of the miles the next day. I have to use the London Marathon app which is not yet available.
3-Boston Marathon. This happens the week after Boston (Oct 8-10). Must be completed in one single run during the 3 day window. Reporting is done via an upload from your device…or the honor system. I live near a chain of small urban lakes. Each is about 5 km to run around, and have paved walking paths (and are pancake flat). I’ll park right by the walking path and have a cooler in the trunk with beverages and snacks. I’ll keep clothing layers in the car, and I’ll likely be walking part of it (or most of it). Last year, I tried and failed to run a virtual marathon but I just ran out the door and started running. There was only one gas station on my route and it turned out to be closed. I had no backup plans for fluids/nutrition and I bonked at mile 18.5. My Apple Watch died at the same time. I learned that I am better off finding someplace that I could do shorter laps and have my own aid station available every few miles. I also learned to use my Garmin for longer runs.
4-New York Marathon. Two week window (Oct 23-Nov 7). Needs to be one continuous run. No time Limit. Weather starts getting dicey in Minnesota around this time of year, but two weeks should give me at least one good running weather date. Same plan as Boston. Use the car as my aid station, and expect to do a lot of walking.
I’m still of the opinion that virtual races and in-person races are different. My marathon total will not change, and I’m still not sure how I feel about these races (and virtual races in general), but I run for bling and I can’t wait to add these medals to my collection. Maybe someday, Chicago and Berlin will offer virtual options as well…