Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Virtual races are becoming more common because of the pandemic. With a little thought and preparation, virtual racing can improve your health and motivation. Photo: Shutterstock

Training for a virtual race? Three hydration and refuelling tips to help you prepare and keep you up and running

  • Because the coronavirus has stopped so many organised running events, more people are turning to virtual races
  • It take a little more planning, but these tips will help you run an effective virtual race

Running is a great cardiovascular activity and has definite health advantages. For people who enjoy running, training and completing a marathon or road race brings a great sense of satisfaction. But when Covid-19 struck, many races were cancelled to limit crowds. Now, virtual races are becoming a popular alternative.

An organised race usually has a set start and finish line, and brings participants together to start at the same time, with a fixed deadline. A virtual race is a race you can run in any location, at your own pace, outdoors or indoors, on a road, trail or treadmill, solo or with a friend or group.

Allison Gregg, a US-based dietitian with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who is also a runner, says that virtual races are a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and stay motivated with training, but require different planning and preparation, especially regarding nutrition and hydration.

“At physical races, nutrition and hydration aid stations are usually set up at regular intervals around the course. With virtual races, it is now up to you,” says Gregg. She offers her top three nutrition and hydration tips for an effective virtual race.

Keep hydrated and eat 30 to 60 grams of carbs every hour. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Don’t skip intrarace fuelling

“Whether a virtual race or in person, it’s critical not to skip fuelling while racing, as your body needs energy to keep going,” says Gregg. She says it’s even more important for novice runners compared to professionals, because novices typically run for a longer time and use more fuel.

Gregg recommends taking in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour if running for longer than one hour. “You should begin carbohydrate intake shortly after the start of your race and continue to consume at 15- to 20-minute intervals for the remainder of your run,” she says.

Race day is not a good day to try new things. Practise your nutrition and hydration plan during training, especially with a run that will be similar to your race intensity effort
Allison Gregg, US-based dietitian with the Mayo Clinic

Hydration is also an important component. Losing just two per cent of your body weight through dehydration can severely impair performance and easily add unwanted time to your race. While you may not have been accustomed to bringing drinks with you, your virtual run will require it.

You should plan to consume one cup of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during your race. If running for longer than one hour, take an electrolyte drink. You should choose a drink that provides a balance of carbohydrates, sodium and potassium to replace those you lose.

Running tips for marathon hopefuls from a Kenyan champion

2. Plan your race route in advance

As you go through your training for a virtual race, consider how your route, hydration and fuel factor in. With a virtual race, you will need to carry your own supplies. This can be achieved several ways, including using a running vest or belt to carry drinks and gels.

Another popular strategy is to coordinate your race route to pass your home on a looped course. Setting up a food and water station in front of your place makes it easy to refuel, says Gregg.

Or, she adds, consider getting friends and family involved. “They could join you on the course in predetermined locations along the route to hand off nutrition and hydration to you.”

You should drink one cup of fluid for every hour you race. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Practise your race fuelling plan beforehand

“Race day is not a good day to try new things,” warns Gregg. “Practise your nutrition and hydration plan during training, especially with a run that will be similar to your race intensity effort.”

Experiment during training with different gels, bars and other whole foods, water, sports and electrolyte drinks to see what your body tolerates best. Your body will digest nutrition differently on an easy run versus a harder effort.

‘I thought I would run one’: marathon runner, 60, nears 200th race

Simulate your race in terms of exertion and distance as close as possible to leave nothing to chance on race day. Also, practise the simple things, such as opening your gels while running. Or consider ripping your gels or other food items in advance so you can easily open them while running.

“Although Covid-19 has changed the look of running races, you can still aim for your personal best during a virtual event by keeping your body hydrated and ensuring you have enough energy to get to the finish,” says Gregg.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Handy tips for those planning a virtual race