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How to nail your STWM virtual race

With the STWM virtual event just around the corner, here are some tips to have the most enjoyable and successful run possible

Runners crossing the start line of the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Running a virtual version of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) probably isn’t what you expected for your 2020 A-race, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat it the same way you would if it were an in-person event. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get excited for the upcoming STWM virtual run, which is taking place between October 1 to 31. 

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We are sad to announce that the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, set to take place on Sunday October 18th, has been cancelled. After extensive discussions with the City of Toronto and Mayor John Tory, we have made the decision to cancel the event due to COVID-19 related health and safety concerns. With the public’s safety being our primary concern, it is just not viable to host a mass event of 25,000+ runners and their families from 75 countries, plus over 3,000 volunteers and thousands more spectators this year.    We are excited to announce the transition to a Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual Race! With a new Marathon Relay option and some great offers from partners, we cannot wait to connect in a virtual world. You can read the full statement at the link in our bio and tune in to the Facebook Live Q&A with Race Director Alan Brookes and Event Director Charlotte Brookes.

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Controlling the controllables 

Kim Dawson is a professor of sport psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, and she says runners competing in virtual races like the STWM need to “control the controllables” on race day. “Control the route, the time of day and the days leading up to the run,” she says. Like an in-person race, have a set date and time for your run, and be sure to map out your course beforehand so you know exactly where you’re going when the time comes for you to race. “You want to simulate as much of a real race as you can leading up to it.”

RELATED: STWM releases medal design for 2020’s virtual races

Dawson also recommends talking to other runners who will be racing the same event. “Just because you aren’t doing it together doesn’t mean you can’t support each other,” she says. You may not be able to race alongside the other runners, but you can all agree to run on the same day at the same time, which adds a level of competition to the whole affair as well. “You can hold each other accountable, and the flexibility of a month-long window gives you a lot of chances to find the perfect day to do it with other people.” 

Felix Chemonges (right) and Felix Chemonges at STWM 2019. Photo: Maxine Gravina
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Above all else, Dawson says to “just have fun with it.” This is a great chance to test your fitness and see how far you can push yourself. “It’s not about the times, it’s about being fit, challenging yourself, finishing with a smile on your face and wanting to do another race,” she says. “If you finish and say you want to run another marathon, then it’s all worth it.” 

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Adding authenticity 

Charlotte Brookes, the national event director at the Canada Running Series, echoes Dawson’s suggestions. In a normal year, Brookes would be way too busy on race day to even consider racing the STWM, but since this year is 100 per cent virtual, she has entered all four events (the 5K, 10K, half-marathon and full marathon), which the STWM team is calling The Whole Shebang. In addition to these distances, organizers are offering a four-person marathon relay, which is another great option that will help keep runners motivated for the race.

Brookes says she plans on racing the marathon (her first shot at the distance) on October 18. “I’ll have a route planned and I’ll have friends out cheering me on and giving me water,” she says. She ran a virtual half-marathon earlier in the summer and she says a friend of hers set up a finish line for her, finishing tape and all. She says she even runs in race bibs that she prints out ahead of her virtual races, which adds a level of authenticity to the event. “There have been times when I’ve been out for my virtual race and I forget that I have a bib on until someone cheers me on,” she says with a laugh. 

STWM 2019. Photo: Maxine Gravina

Even running near other people (although not necessarily with them) helps motivate Brookes in virtual races. In the spring, the City of Toronto started an initiative called ActiveTO and began shutting down certain streets on weekends and reserving them for pedestrians. “ActiveTO has been really big for me,” Brookes says. “Feeling that vibe of having other people around is a big help.” 

RELATED: Planning ahead for virtual races

Brookes adds that the Canada Running Series and STWM have “a very exciting new way to connect while running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon virtually” in the race’s app. The STWM app will help runners around the world connect with each other, compete and see how the virtual race is going for everyone else.