Saucony star athlete Tom Marshall shares some advice for racing on the virtual circuits, with a little help from Iuean Thomas. 

The most common words we have heard recently are, “these are unprecedented times”, and yes, undoubtably these words ring true. We have never seen anything like this in our lifetime and hopefully will not again.

What we have come to learn is that there is one trait that has stood out above the rest: adaptability. A trait that can absolutely be applied to the question of how do you adapt to virtual road racing when we should be racing on the track right now (or racing alongside others on the road)?

Let me say from the outset, racing on the road only differs to racing on the track slightly. There are still tactics, race plans, rivalries, PB’s to be had, conditions to be dealt with, and fun to be had. The difference lies twofold; the surface is different, and you can worry a little less about positioning.

“Track races are predictable” adds Thomas. “They’re a certain amount of laps, they’re always flat and most of the time you’ll be running at a relatively consistent pace. Road races are very different. Every course and every race is different. You have uphill, downhill, U-turns, cornering.”

Therefore, adapting to racing on the road is not too difficult when compared to track, but there are three subtle differences that should be made.

Train specifically

If you are racing on the road more than the track, you should be doing more road sessions in than track sessions. Yes, a track session can certainly compliment your road racing and has a pivotal place in training, but you need to learn to race on the road surface. The same goes vice versa, road can compliment track, but ensure you are at least getting one track workout a week in.

This applies to footwear too. Get yourself a great pair of racing flats that are fast and durable. Saucony Endorphin Pro’s are my go-to. Make sure you train in these at least a few times before race day. This allows you to get used to the shoe and get a feel as to what race day will be like.

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Know your race

Learn to not worry about distance. In a track race, you can tick off the laps. 400m at a time. In a road race, seldom does thus ever happen. So beforehand, determine where the 400m to go mark is, and the 200m to go (just so you know when to sprint), and practice switching off and not worrying about distance.

It is a different story again when it comes to virtual racing. Virtual road racing during these times is a superb way to maintain motivation and positivity. It gives you a target and a goal to reach for. Here are a few tips for when it comes to virtual racing:

Set yourself up for a couple of virtual races to give you something to train towards, after all we have no idea when the next race may be.

Thomas takes it a step further when discussing traditional road races but you could apply to virtual racing too. Try to “recon as much of the course as possible in advance. Talk to other runners and find out their experiences of the course. Does the wind always go in one direction?”

Make sure no cars are coming before you stretch in the middle of the road. Photo: Saucony UK

Mix it up

Try different distances. I have seen road 500m races, 1ks, 2ks, 3ks, 5ks, and 10ks. When do you ever race over some of these distances? Challenge yourself. Have some fun.

Challenge a training partner. My training group are having some great fun and banter when it comes to virtual racing. It helps keep those competitive juices flowing and pushes you to strive for more.

“It would also help to practice running in a group so that you’re ready for that mass on race day,” adds Thomas. When we can all race back together on the roads, you’ll be one step ahead of the pack.

I hope that helps give an insight into racing on the road versus the track and add some insight into virtual racing too. They all have a fantastic place in your training, and there can be a great balance that can be struck.

Saucony have launched the new Endorphin Pro range, to find out more check out their website.

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