How to Run a Virtual Road Race and 12 CLT Races to Compete in This Fall

Runners are always on the prowl for the next race on the calendar, but 2020 has sidelined many road racer’s motivation for running. With most in-person races cancelled or postponed, it can be hard to keep testing your abilities through training. But training for a virtual race can (and should) be the same as training to cross an actual finish line. To each their own, but you crazy runners are my people. I see you, I get you.

Let’s keep the momentum (or amp it up again for some… pandemic overacheivers) with one of these upcoming COVID-compliant running events:

USNWC Labor Day Trail Race

September 5. 5K and 15K trail race using a dispersed start model to allow social distancing. Register here.

USNWC Dry Tri

Paddle, bike, and run your way around the US National Whitewater Center in this unique event. Do it as an individual or relay team of 2 or 3. Register here.

OrthoCarolina 10K/5K Classic

September 19. My favorite race every year! I’ll miss the food truck and beer fest at the finish line but can’t wait to keep my OrthoCarolina 10K/5K tradition alive virtually this year. Register here.

Isabella Santos Foundation 5K

September 26. Virtual 5K that supports the ISF’s mission to support the fight against pediatric cancer in honor of the foundation’s namesake, Isabella, who lost her battle. Register here.

The C2 Obstacle Trail Run

Anytime, September 12-26. Virtual 5K/obstacle run and 1 Mile Fun Run options are available for this YMCA race. Submitting your time is easy- just send a photo/screenshot of your distance and time. Need obstacle inspo? Check that out here. Suggested 5K routes can also be found here. Register here.

Golden Heroes 5K

September 26. This virtual 5k will benefit Carolina Pediatric Attention Love and Support (PALS) at UNC Hospital. Carolina students support pediatric hematology and oncology patients through volunteering and fundraising with this group. Register or donate here.

Davidson Lands Conservancy Run for Green 5K/10K/Half Marathon

Septemeber 26. Something for everyone here with 3 race distance options! Register here.

USNWC Tread Nightly Tread Brightly Trail Race

September 25-26. With two distances options (half marathon and 4-miler), you can run under the stars then rise and shine the very next day to do it all over again. Register here.

Charlotte Rocktoberfest Half Marathon/5-Miler

October 10. Rock your run virtually with a unique 5-mile distance as well as a half marathon option. Register here.

Run! Ballantyne 8K/5K/Fun Run

October 31 – Novemeber 14. Something for literally everyone here. If you’ve never run a race before, what an awesome opportunity to dip your toes in the race pool with a 1-mile fun run. I promise you can do it… I also promise you can do the longer distances in this race too, but baby steps. Register here.

Novant Health Charlotte Marathon/Half Marathon/5K/Kids 1 Mile Fun Run

Novemeber 14. The “big race” a lot of area runners train tirelessly for each year will be virtual in 2020. Still lots of ways to get involved with multiple lengths, a rucking option, as well as a relay team option. Register here.

Krueger Reindeer Romp 5K

December 5-19. Thow on something festive and work up a nice post-Thanksgiving sweat before visions of sugar plums (and cookies, and fudge) start dancing in your head this Christmas season. Register here.

Around the Crown 10K

December 6. Run on I-277 around the beltway that hugs our Queen as this races shutdown the interstate. Register here.

Now that you have your eye on your next race target, let’s talk strategy for what would be a time most of us were creeping into the “long run” section of our fall race season training plans.

Train Smart

Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage before the race has even started with a haphazard or non-existent trainnig plan. Check out OrthoCarolina‘s collection of mobility workouts, warm-ups, cool downs, and rest day ideas here.

Mix up your route if you’re craving variety

If you’re a creature of habit, you’ve probably traced the same route a zillion times. While this works for some, others would be bored to tears. Try varying your route with additional distance, traveling the same route but in the reverse direction you usually go, or checking out Scoop’s favorite places to log miles here if you’re feeling blah about carving out the same path on every run.

Make sure you’ve got the right swag

The right running gear can shave precious seconds off of your pace. I know you’ve been online shopping like it’s your job these past few months, so treat yo’self to something practical. Sure a poor craftsman blames his tools and all that jazz, but those “tools” can make a huge difference in the running world. In this case, the “tools” are socks and headphones, but tools nonetheless. My running essentials are:

  • A pair of great-fitting shoes- I prefer Saucony and Brooks, but you should really have a pro at a local running shop fit you for the best recommendation.
  • Quality socks- They make a huge difference- try Balega, Bombas, or Feetures.
  • Headphones that don’t slide out of your sweaty ear- mine are JayBird. Kudos to those with normal-shaped ears that can use AirPods- that ain’t me.

Run early

I used to be a pro at this pro tip, but I’ve grown to like my beauty sleep more than I used to. Cheers to you early birds! There’s also a trade-off for heat vs. humidity in the Carolina summer months- running in the morning might offer lower temps, but higher humidity; later evening running can be less muggy but hotter. SIGH. I’m ready for fall.

Slow down

Make your movements intentional and controlled rather than sprinting at your top speed from the start. Your body needs time to get used to heat training.

Grab an accountability buddy

Sharing virtual experiences has become commonplace for everything from dance recitals to fitness events. Up the ante by connecting virtually with a running buddy or group. Nike Run Club and Peloton offer great running guides and communities while I’m addicted to my Strava “kudos” from friends that follow me on this social fitness platform. Even if we can’t do it together, planning a time where we’re both running has helped me to stay accountable with my training buddies.

Plan Ahead

We’ve put our pre-race prep suggestions into an easy checklist format so any other checklist loyals like myself can go nuts with color-coded Sharpies as you mark items off with what some might say is “excessive” enthusiasm.

T-minus one week

  • Get familiar with your route. Trace the race route however you see fit (on foot, from the saddle of your bike, or by car) so there are no surprises when you’re gunning for the podium, trying to beat a personal best, or simply claiming victory by finishing. Figuratively clear your path to whatever your end-goal may be so that you really have no excuses at the finish. Running is all about you- own it! There’s no one else around to drop your perfect pass or let a defender through for the sack. You’re a bonafide athlete now so you’ve got this. When you know what’s coming, you’re better able to manage your exertion and prepare.
  • Don’t introduce new shoes, gadgets, or running styles right before a race. Stick to the same methods you’ve used in your training and remove any possible complications.
  • Eat light but filling meals and make sure to do your research before participating in any pop culture-fueled pre-race practices. Carbo-loading the day before a race with enough pasta to feed a small village isn’t actually the best approach to upping your stored energy. Many increase their carb intake in small increments or do a carb-heavy day 2 days prior to their event. This is mostly for distances greater than a 10k, so light meals that are high in protein without too much fiber are a 10k/5k runner’s BFF. Consult your doctor or a dietician for what’s right for your body- everyone is different!
  • Stay hydrated and don’t wait for the day before (or worse, the morning of) a race to chug a gallon of water college-style. Small, polite sips, ladies and gentlemen.
  • Put together a killer playlist with music that will motivate you to keep going. Or follow me on Spotify where I’ve curated a few running playlists and am happy to share.

T-minus one day

  • Reap the sweet relief of tapering and give your body a rest. You’ve been training and should be prepared- congrats! If you’re feeling the need for a shakeout run, keep it at an easy pace with a tiny bit of speed incorporated to prime your muscles for competition.
  • Go to bed early. Getting a good night’s sleep will help keep you sharp and focused on your goal.
  • One of my personal pre-race rituals is to dedicate each mile to one person I care about. I helps me push through when a hill seems too steep, I want to walk, or I just need a little extra boost if I frame it as “their mile.”

The big day

  • Set your alarm a few minutes earlier than you think you need to as your insurance policy against anything out of the ordinary getting in the way of your carefully laid plans.
  • As tempting as it may be to skip breakfast, make your best effort to get a little protein and carbs in but avoid fiber-rich foods that could upset your stomach during your race. Some of my favorite race day breakfasts are an English muffin with peanut butter and banana with a sprinkle of chia seeds and dash of cinnamon, oatmeal with nuts, or a smoothie with fruit and yogurt.
  • Check the weather and plan accordingly with both your clothes and your gear. Your body temperature will be increasing along your run so the light jacket you might have needed before the race could become an obstacle to struggle with on the race course.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen. Your 10-step skincare routine is too precious to wreck by forgetting this step.
  • Stretch, for God’s sake. Before AND after, please!

Post-race

You did it! Now it’s time to refuel with a protein bar or similar snack after your race, keep moving to keep your muscles from stiffening, stretch, and pat yourself on the back. I made the mistake of a post-race nap after my first half marathon and was hobbling around the rest of the day. Don’t be like me. It’s not a bad idea to do a short, easy workout the day after to help speed your recovery time either.

Let us know what race(s) you’re looking forward to in the comments below and don’t forget to tag @ScoopCharlotte on IG during training/on race day!

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Nicole Brantley
Nicole is a native Charlottean that loves the Queen City almost as much as running, writing, and type-A organization.

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