Running a Virtual Marathon

With many events cancelled people have taken to running virtual events. Virtual Running has become widely popular as we look to get involved with the running community when we aren’t able to run together. Many of the World Marathon Majors and other large events have offered a virtual option. London Marathon and New York Marathon opened up entry to the general public meaning there will likely be a mix of runners taking on the marathon distance virtually. Throughout this blog I will be offering advice on running a marathon,  but specifically what you should be considering running a virtual marathon.

Any route is the marathon route for the virtual marathon

If you are taking on the London virtual marathon next week, or another later in the year, it is important to first consider how you will approach this run. It can be harder or easier than a large organised event, depending on how you decide to approach it, and I will cover what I mean by that below. First of all, remember, this is a Marathon,  and its not going to be easy. Just because its being run virtually doesn’t make the distance any easier. The same tips for running a marathon apply, so please take a look at my Top 10  Marathon Tips HERE.

How I like to run a marathon

Be prepared for your Virtual Marathon

It is always important to be prepared when running an organised event,  but even more important to be prepared if you are running virtually. There are so many more things to consider,  much of which you will take for granted because the race organisers usually take care of it for us. Also without the buzz of the race and the crowd support, the motivation to keep going when it gets tough will be hard to find, so it is important to be prepared. We usually have to just make sure we have our kit ready and plan getting to the start line with everything we need. Then work on our race strategy of pacing and nutrition. Below I am going to list some things worth considering before you take on your virtual marathon.

Plan your route

I think one of the most important things to plan is your route. You may decide to do your marathon on a treadmill like I did on the original date for London Marathon (take a look at my experience HERE), in which case you don’t have to worry about the route, but otherwise you don’t want to leave this to chance. I have decided to remove this complication myself and have entered a smaller event that is actually happening, so I will be doing my virtual marathon during a race with a planned route. However let’s assume most of you won’t, so where do you start. Really it doesn’t matter where you run, but where you run may make it harder or easier for you. If you are going for a fast time (which is relative to you) then you don’t want to have a complicated route.

All ready for the virtual London Marathon 2020

The things I would consider when planning a route is traffic, elevation and familiarity. The ideal will be to drive somewhere in the country with a simple route. If you are after a faster time you will want a flatter profile and for it to be traffic free. If you are less worried about time then just think about making sure you aren’t going to get lost, and have an idea of distance. You may want to do simple laps, but more laps can be harder mentally. Just make sure you aren’t going to get lost or end up running much further than needed. If making up a route I find a simple out and back the best way to get the distance right.

Plan your nutrition

Planning nutrition and hydration is always important on race day, especially during a marathon. I usually recommend considering what is on offer on the course and carrying a bit of extra fuel. However in most events you don’t usually have to worry about water, especially in big events. But if you are running outside race conditions you have to plan every step of the way. For most the best option would be to carry water and fuel with you. I always carry a pack of Clif bloks. Whatever you use, make sure you have enough to see you through to the end. If you are going on a smaller route you may be able to set up aid stations, or even have friends and family meet you at certain points to pass you water. Whatever you do, plan ahead. I would suggest having money or card on you in case of an emergency.

Find your route and enjoy it

Consider motivation and mental strength

A marathon is much more than the physical ability to complete the distance. It takes mental strength, and you need to stay motivated to keep going. When you run with a pacer, run with friends, run with a crowd, there are lots of things to give you strength. Consider what you will do to get motivation when running a marathon on your own or at least out of event conditions. This may mean having people cheer you along the route, if you plan to run past your house your loved ones could come out to support. Or you could arrange for finish line celebrations to get you to the end. People can find having a mantra or positive messaging throughout their run will help. What works for you? Find out what keeps you strong, and use this when the going gets tough.

How are you preparing for your virtual marathon

Who are you running with?

Running a virtual marathon doesn’t mean you have to run alone. Of course you may prefer to run alone, and find peace by putting in your headphones and running your normal Sunday long run. But for those taking on the marathon for the first time, or aiming to replicate some of the excitement from #the40thrace you will benefit from the social aspect. I find running with others can keep me motivated, help me to run faster, and either way, I enjoy it so much more. So who are you running with?

Consider safety if running alone

Safety is so important if running alone. Usually in organised events you have first aiders and lots of people around if you get in distress. There are many benefits of running with others, and safety is one of them. If you are running alone then make sure someone knows where you are running and how long you are expecting to be. Carry your mobile phone so you are able to contact someone if you don’t feel well or have an accident. You can get tracking on your phone for extra security. If you are running a marathon for the first time this is even more important. I would suggest not pushing yourself to your limit if running alone, and instead make sure you keep energy and stay safe. Consider a smaller route with more laps so you are never that far from home.

Get ready


This is a Marathon, so just because its virtual doesn’t mean it has to feel like your normal sunday long run. So when you finish… Celebrate! Plan who you are meeting, where you are going, and how you are going to celebrate running your marathon.

I will miss the finish line cuddles

Why are you running?

Ask yourself one question before you start your virtual marathon… why are you running? If you want a PB consider a fast course, something traffic free, maybe see if you can get someone to pace you or support you, and think about your seemless fueling strategy. If you want to aim to have fun and finish, think about whether you can run with others, and what will make the experience fun. If you are just going to treat it as a long run, find your favourite route and just enjoy it. Whatever you want to get from your virtual run, make sure you know before you set off, so you can make sure it happens.

2 thoughts on “Running a Virtual Marathon

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