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Virtual Racing Series

Posted in Blog, Events, Running.

September 21st, 2020


Naomi Ryan @nnomiface

Finish Line Physical Therapist: @emmiaguillard_dpt

What virtual race(s) have you participated in?  Virtual NYC Marathon, a few shorter NYRR virtual races (Percy Sutton 5K, New Balance Mile), and VDOT Challenges in the mile and 5K. I enjoyed pushing my limits with the shorter races, but marathon distance will probably always be my favorite!


Emmi is both my PT and run coach, and in the past we’ve incorporated races into my training and used them as guideposts for where I am in my fitness. To help me stay motivated, we built a training schedule in which the shorter virtual races became more of a tool to keep marathon training fun and meaningful. In my running I thrive on structure and foundation, so even though the pandemic upended my in-person racing plans for the year, continuing to follow a training plan really helped me stay sane. It was also great to be still able to rely on PT during quarantine to ensure that if I got injured, I could safely resume running. I suffered a calf strain at the beginning of my training, and a few virtual visits with Emmi and readjustment of my training plan helped put me back on track quickly.

Course Strategy

For my virtual NYC Marathon route, I wanted to eliminate as many course interruptions (stoplights, crossing major avenues, etc.) as possible and also be in a relatively quiet area in terms of foot/cycling traffic. Running the Randall’s Island 5-mile loop multiple times, which I often ran as part of my training long runs, made the most sense for me. My boyfriend Mirek was sweet enough to accompany me on his bike and serve as a traveling fuel/water/photography/cheer station! It was wonderful to have his support, and I hope I’m not spoiled for future in-person races – I could get used to having a personal fuel/water station! The race went pretty smoothly, and I even ended up shaving a few seconds off of my marathon PR time.

Virtual Racing

My goal throughout has been simply to continue running – it is my usual way of finding peace and purpose in life, and definitely during this time, I think we all could use more of those things! That said, having the goal of a virtual marathon challenged me to build mental fortitude and not shirk on the consistency of training and staying physically healthy through rest days and recovery. In the end, I am happy I got to run a marathon this year, but I’m also incredibly proud of all the work I did to make it happen, and I can’t express enough appreciation for the people in my life who support me in all my running endeavors, virtual or not!

Kaitlyn Kiernan Bartolone @kierbart89

Run Club? Dashing Whippets

FLPT Physical Therapist?  Emmi Aguillard, PT DPT, FAFS

What virtual race(s) have you participated in? Boston Marathon, 3:07:13 (49 seconds shy of my PR)


What was your training strategy to keep motivated?

I ran a lot of new routes not only to avoid the busier waterfront routes, but also to keep things interesting. I used CityStrides, which allows you to track what percentage of a city’s streets you have run, and ended up running 100% of Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken, West New York and Guttenberg, plus 45% of Jersey City and 40% of West Bergen. I really only ran my old “usual” routes for workouts when I didn’t want to worry about crossing streets.

How did PT accompany your training?

I think Emmi was one of the last people I saw in person in March before the city shut down as I was getting ready for the NYC Half. Unfortunately that race never happened, but I was back in to see Emmi in the lead up to virtual Boston. She was great in helping me navigating new aches and pains that emerged from the combo of marathon training and remote work. Not having a real desk to work at hasn’t been easy, but Emmi helped make sure I got to start (and finish) the virtual race feeling healthy. She also made sure I got to the start line looking like an Olympian after doing some cupping on my thigh just a few days before the race. I had some nice dark circles 🙂

Course Strategy

How was the route planned? 

I used MapMyRun. I actually planned out 3 different routes, each with its own pros and cons, before settling on the one I actually ran in Saddle River County Park in northern New Jersey. I ended up with that route mostly because it was outside the NYC heat dome and a solid 4 degrees cooler than anything in the NYC/Hoboken area that same day.

Did you have designated aid stations?

The course had two big loops with two smaller out and backs. It worked out well where my husband was able to see me and hand off water 5 different times. I made handles using duck tape on 12 oz Poland Springs water bottles. I even taped a SaltStick to one for him to hand me at mile 12. Even though it was cooler out in the suburbs, it was still 71 by the time I finished so the electrolytes were key. That worked really well though. The park didn’t have many trash cans right off the running route, so I would throw him the used bottle before he handed off the new one. I carried my gels in my shorts as I usually do during marathons, but this time I pocketed the empty wrappers to help keep the park clean.

Did it go as planned? Would you change anything?

It didn’t go quite as planned. I lost 6 minutes in the final 3 miles because it got too warm and the lack of crowd support or distractions was really wearing on me by then. If I could change anything I maybe would have started 20 mins earlier and started a bit slower, but it is what it is. I think the hardest part was seeing the perfect weather people had in Boston the next weekend (55F in the morning!). The great thing about a real race is everyone is racing in the same conditions. In a virtual race, they have a leaderboard but you really can compare people running on different courses in different conditions.

Virtual Racing

What has been your goal throughout?

I was hoping to go sub-3, but it wasn’t in the cards. I feel really good about where my fitness is, thanks to my coaching from Jason, but I’ll have to wait to race another day.

Biggest takeaway/success?

I did something that was mentally really challenging and made it to the finish. I’m really proud of that. It was hard to ignore the voices at the end asking why I was racing this “fake” race, but I held on to make it to the finish. That experience will make me a stronger racer in the future.

Overall experience?

Overall, I’m glad I did it, but I have no desire to ever race a virtual marathon again. I won’t rule out shorter distances yet, but a virtual race really can’t compare to a real, in-person event.

Kelsey Bryant @kelseybb 

#1 Cheerleader? @pumbakingofnyc

FLPT Physical Therapist? Sammy Jacobsen, PT, DPT

Virtual Race? Boston Marathon


What was your training strategy to keep motivated? Training was oddly something to look forward to. I’m a doctor and work has not been particularly fun recently, and my wedding was cancelled twice. Having a goal to complete something gave me something to look forward to.

How has COVID/quarantine impacted your training?

I was trying to train for Boston on an injured knee and it was just not happening. When Boston was initially postponed in April, I was working in the hospital exclusively with COVID patients and I completely stopped running for 9 weeks. Funny how injuries heal when you give them time.

How did PT accompany your training?

Even though my knee was mostly better, I still had a lot of strength to gain. I felt like Sammy was constantly putting out little fires after each long run. She also happened to be my coach! Since she was very familiar with the trajectory of my knee injury, it made sense to have her plan my weekly workouts.

Course Strategy

How did you plan your route? I let my friend that is even more type A than me plan it. We avoided hills entirely.

Did you have designated aid stations? I carried a water bottle and refilled when empty, but we had a cheering squad of dogs that had water at mile 9 and 21.

Did it go as planned? Would you change anything? I wouldn’t have walked! But maybe I would have? My whole goal was to finish and not reinjure myself and I achieved that.

Did you have people cheering for you? Friends or strangers? Husband, dogs, and friends — plus all the strangers out running their own virtual marathon with Boston tags!

Virtual Racing

What has been your goal throughout? Finish, don’t get injured, then work on getting faster

Biggest takeaway/success? It takes a lot of mental strength. If you would have told me my long run one day was 26.2 miles, I would have said no way. Since this was a “race” I cruised through to about 22 miles before I realized it sucked.

Overall experience? I really loved being able to wake up and start right after my coffee/stretch routine, rather than waiting around for three hours and just hoping my nutrition and hydration schedule was okay.

Plans for any more virtual races? NYC marathon

Emily Goldsmith @eegoldsmith

Run Club? Brooklyn Track Club

Physical Therapist? Sammy Jacobsen, PT, DPT

What virtual race(s) have you participated in? Brooklyn Mile, Lululemon Seawheeze 10k, Trial of Miles Bridle Path FTK, The Speed Project, Boston marathon. I have also done a 5k time trial. My favorite has been the Speed Project because it challenged me in new and unexpected ways. I didn’t think I could run 48 miles at 6:48 pace over the course of the weekend. The best part was the team aspect. Running with 5 other women made me want to give the race my all.


What was your training strategy to keep motivated? Training has been tough since March because I could not do my usual track workouts and long runs with Brooklyn Track Club. Luckily my coach, Elizabeth Maiuolo, has been working with me to adjust my goals. Normally my year revolves around training for the NYC marathon in the fall and the Boston marathon in the spring. When it became clear that large scale marathons would not be happening I decided to start training for shorter distances from the mile to the 10k. This change in training has been exciting because without Covid I never would have taken the time to train for these distances. I am running faster than I ever thought I could. I have also used this time to focus on rest, recovery, and my form. In normal times it is easy to push through issues. Now I am able to take time to focus on correcting issues, such as persistent hip and glute pain, and I don’t have to worry about missing races.

How did PT accompany your training? PT has been so helpful and Sammy is the best. I have been maintaining my weekly PT appointments despite the lack of racing opportunities. Not only are all my aches and pains addressed, Sammy teaches me how to prevent future injuries. I feel like I come to every appointment with so many concerns and I leave feeling confident in my running abilities.

Course Strategy – The Speed Project

How have you been planning the routes? The Speed Project a 31 hour and 15 minute race done relay style. There were 6 women on my team. For the first 24 hours we rotated and did 45 minute runs. For these runs I picked routes that were relatively flat and in areas that I was familiar with. During the last several hours of the race we went to the McCarren Park track. The goal was to go as fast as possible. The track was ideal because we could shorten the distances we were doing. I started with15 minute increments and then dropped down to 1600s, 800s, and 400s on the track. By the end of the race I was exhausted and the track enabled me to run as fast as I could with minimal thought devoted to the course strategy.

Did you have designated aid stations? We were based at a hotel in Williamsburg. It was really nice to have a place to refuel, recover, and nap between all of the legs.

Did it go as planned? Would you change anything? I was invited to join the team less than 2 weeks before the race. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into and didn’t have much of a plan. I talked to people who had done races like this before and they told me to take the first legs easy and use the time between legs to nap and recover. I ended up going out too fast on my first leg, but I was able to maintain the pace for the first several legs. The one thing that I didn’t anticipate was how my stomach would feel. During my third leg I started feeling like I was going to throw up. Unfortunately I felt like that for the rest of the race and it was really difficult for me to eat or drink much. At the end of the race we switched strategies, instead of doing 15 minute legs we did miles on the track. The change in plan helped me keep going because I was able to take shorter but more frequent breaks. I don’t think I would change anything. I had never done anything like this before so I am really happy with how it turned out.

Did you have people cheering for you? Friends or strangers? Yes! That was the best part of TSP. I had friends come to bike and run with me and so many people came out to cheer for my team. Complete strangers would see me running and cheer for me, which was really special. People that couldn’t come in person were cheering for the team over social media. I felt really supported and the cheers meant so much, especially when I was really tired and the race was getting really hard.

Virtual Racing

What has been your goal throughout? At first I was not excited about virtual racing. I really missed my racing schedule and teammates and I felt like something really important had been taken from me. My goal now is to have fun with running and try new things. I don’t want to view running as something I have to do. It’s something that I want to do and something that provides meaning, purpose and joy to my life. My coach would probably want me to also add that an important goal is to stay injury free.

Biggest takeaway/success? My biggest takeaway is that I can do hard things. Running shorter distances has always intimidated me. I have learned that just going for it, acknowledging that it’s going to be hard, and embracing the pain will lead to results that I can be proud of.

Overall experience? Virtual racing has been a lot more fun than I thought it would be. I have set mile, 5k, and 10k PRs and pushed myself in unexpected ways. The best part of virtual racing has been the support that I have had from others. I have had so many people volunteer to run with me and bike pace me. None of the races that I have done have been solo efforts and I wouldn’t be able to run these PRs without the support.

Plans for any more virtual races? Right now I am planning on doing a 5k time trial in October. I will definitely add more virtual races, probably shorter distances, to my fall and winter schedule.

*Thank you Keith Montero @keefshoots for the photo.*
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