It’s not always possible to get large numbers of people together on a regular basis to run either a 5K, 10K or Half Marathon race. Each time one of these takes place there has to be organisers agreeing with the local council or land owner that a race will take place on a particular day for a particular duration. If the route includes roads then it can mean closing off roads whilst the run takes place, especially if it’s a larger run. There then has to be a number of officials or marshals to keep an eye on things, and this all adds up. From a participants point of view it can mean travel, and having to be available to run on a specific date.
All of this isn’t always possible, and this is where the idea of Virtual Running comes in. On a regular basis (in the case of “Virtual Runner UK” each month) there are virtual events that take place all over the world where you can complete the distance of 5K, 10K, or a Half Marathon either on your own or as part of a group at any time you like, anywhere you like, on any day between two fixed dates. This means if you need to take a few days or even a week off running due to injury or illness you don’t have to forfeit the race, just do it on another day. When you’ve done your race you send evidence of your run and time to the organiser along with your race number so that you can be added to the results table. As with other races, a lot of these virtual runs also give you a medal for taking part.
In the days leading up to my first Parkrun I’d had the occasional niggle from my right ankle, from what I later presumed to have been from pushing too hard too soon after taking a month off for the Antarctica Expedition. After both training runs the following week I found my ankle to be uncomfortable, bad enough to mean I had to have a week of rest days to allow my ankle to heal properly. By this time I’d got less than 4 weeks to go until the 6 mile run for Sport Relief, but I wanted to make sure I would get at least one 10K in before then. When I found that there was such a thing as a Virtual Race it seemed like it would be a good idea to combine at least one of these with my training.
I was far from confident of being able to complete a Half Marathon anytime soon so opted to compete in both the 5K and the 10K for Virtual Runner UK; I just had to make sure these were between the 5th and 25th of March. I also entered the 5K race for Virtual Running UK who did medals for the race in support of The British Heart Foundation.
My first attempt at doing the 5K was my first run with the Garmin Forerunner 220 and was taking a different route around a housing estate near Leicester Forest East (the usual route was blocked due to works). Unfortunately, even though I ran further than 5K I stopped my watch recording at 3.1 miles – thinking that was the distance for 5K. However when I came to review this run I noticed it said 4.99K instead of 5K – this is when I realised that 5K is actually 3.11 miles.
My second attempt at doing the 5K almost didn’t happen. The night before I’d been started to get a cold which resulted in a sleepless night from not being able to breathe. Despite being tired and barely able to breathe I thought I’d go ahead and do a run anyway – to see if I could manage 5K whilst ill. It was harder work than normal, but with the help of my new watch was able to gradually increase pace over each 1K distance until I had a brief period of running at a pace of 5.40 min/mile. Once my watch vibrated to indicate I’d done 3 miles I then kept a close eye on it so I could stop it when it reached 3.11 miles. It was one of the most difficult runs I’ve done, even more so than the parkrun despite having a better finishing time on that occasion – but I was very pleased to have managed it.
For the 10K this felt like more of a challenge – I’d only ran 6.22 miles once before and that was before the expedition. I’d had a few attempts at building my distance back up during lunch time runs but on one occasion had injured my ankle, and then on the other felt that my knee was going to have issues. Whilst the final remnants of the cough/cold combo were lingering I decided that I’d plan an afterwork run to try and take advantage of some of the Spring sunshine we were getting. Unusually I’d be running from home so I headed to Google Maps and started plotting a route trying to avoid as many major junctions as I could.
The next day the sun was out as hoped so I put on my running shoes and headed out. My intention was to maintain a slow 9min/mile pace so that I could take this run easy to avoid injury and make sure I could get the full distance in. Even with my watch though I found I was average 8:30min/mile instead but that didn’t bother me too much. The route I took unfortunately was crowded in places as there’s quite a few schools in the area, though once passed the first mile the number of obstacles dropped considerably.
At around the 4 mile point I encountered the first junction I had to actually stop running at. I stood around for what seemed like ages before making a dash across the road in a more than suitable gap in the traffic. Initially I picked up the pace a little to try and make up for the stopping, but then decided that was silly and slowed back down. At the point I turned off my watch I’d done a lap of South Wigston, Glen Parva and Blaby in a big circle and had stopped my watch more or less at the point where I’d started it 50 minutes previously.
It was an enjoyable run and I was glad to have finally managed my first 10K this year (which is actually only my second 10K run overall). Now I felt ready for the 6 mile run that was coming up in a little over a week.