Virtual Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap

On Saturday, I completed my 5th half marathon! This half was a lot different from my previous 4. This was my very first virtual race, and also my first postpartum half marathon!

I decided to run this race on a local running trail where I also did most of my training. The trail is pretty flat, which is hard to find in the Pittsburgh area. I learned a few things during this virtual race that I want to share for anyone else that is thinking about signing up for a virtual race:

  1. Race support looks different – one of my favorite things about running races is the support from the crowds. The cheering, the clapping, the cowbells…the general excitement and energy that the crowd produces is contagious. It’s one of the things that gives me the race “buzz” – that feeling where you get goosebumps or when you suddenly get emotional during a race. That happens to me every time. During a virtual race, that crowd does not exist, which makes it a lot harder. The way I adjusted for this was by creating a “virtual” race support group. I sent text updates to my family throughout the race and they responded with supportive texts to cheer me on. They also watched for me to approach the finish line to cheer me on. This wasn’t the same experience as an in-person race, but the virtual support meant a lot to me.
  2. You’re responsible for your own nutrition/hydration – During previous races that I’ve participated in, it’s pretty standard to have frequent water stations where they will hand out cups of water and some sort of electrolyte drink. Also, a lot of races I’ve done have handed out gels and gu’s during the higher miles. During a virtual race, there aren’t water stations so you need to make sure you are prepared to handle your own hydration/nutrition on your own. I thankfully have a Nathan hydration belt that I use for all of my long runs. This belt contains two water bottles and a little zipper pack that can hold gu’s, a Clif bar, or my car keys. The hydration belt was definitely needed during this virtual race!
  3. Figure out the bathroom situation in advance – This one’s self-explanatory. During regular, in-person races, there will typically be porto-potties set up every few miles for runners. When you are running a virtual race, you need to figure out the bathroom situation for yourself. The trail I run on usually has porto-potties, but due to Covid-19, all the porto-potties had locks on them and were closed. Definitely something to be aware of as you scope out your virtual race route.

Overall, I was very happy with this race, and I am excited to receive the race medal!

Happy Running!

-Coach Lauren

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