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  • Dylan Roche

Virtual Marathon Challenge: Another Adventure for 2020

Updated: Feb 5

This post was originally published on my old blog in November 2020 and has been republished here for posterity.

Another adventure, another story to tell — and this time, it’s about running a virtual marathon with the Gone for a Run Virtual Marathon Challenge.

I’ll start by saying this: If you aren’t undertaking a challenge that breaks up the monotony of quarantine life, I would highly recommend it. 10 out of 10. Or maybe it would be more appropriate to say 4 out of 4, because that’s how many virtual races I had to do as part of last week’s challenge: a 10K, half-marathon, 30K, and full marathon, all one day right after another.

I have to admit that I’m warming up to the idea of virtual challenges. It’s weird because I never wanted to do races in general — I always said that I was a runner for myself, that I didn’t like the idea of competition. Then after I did my first race, I was hooked. I like the camaraderie, the festivities, the excitement of running with so many other people, the party afterward. The competitive aspect of races isn’t even a thing (though it is exciting to see your PR/best time up on the website afterward).

So when it comes to virtual races, shouldn’t these be perfect for me? It’s a new way to challenge myself, and the competitive aspect (if there is one) is easy enough to ignore. As I said, it’s a way to break up the monotony of quarantine. Plus you still get to connect with other runners — most of these virtual races have an online forum on social media and hashtags you can use to see how other runners are approaching the challenge.

I get especially excited about virtual challenges that offer something new and different. It’s one of the reasons I loved doing 100 miles with the Couch Tour Challenge, which benefits musicians out of work because of COVID restrictions (and registration is still open if you’re interested in doing it too). It’s easy enough to find virtual 5Ks, but the ones that demand something new and different from you…those are the ones that push your outside your comfort zone.

In the case of this Virtual Marathon Challenge, that push came in the form of a 10K, half-marathon, 30K, and full marathon, and I was going to do them all one day after another. “Heck yeah,” I thought. “That sounds cool.”

And yes, it turned out to be just as great as I expected it to be. I charted courses along the bike trail where I normally run, as well as through downtown Annapolis, which is always makes a beautiful running route.

A few things I learned from this? Well, for starters, shorter distances make it easier to run at a faster pace. I mean, duh, that’s obviously…but I really felt it for the first time doing this challenge. I’m normally somebody who goes long, not fast. But I recognize there are benefits to both types of training.

My 10K times was only 44 minutes, and I remember pushing myself to speed it up. For the longer distances, I conserved my energy. My pace was a little slower, but it’s still something to brag about.

The other thing is that marathons are way harder when you do them by yourself! I mean, way harder. This wasn’t the first virtual marathon I’ve done so far in 2020, but it was definitely a sobering reminder that you don’t have the same adrenaline you would have when there are other runners on the course with you and cheering spectators on the sidelines. My time definitely reflected that — it took me nearly 3 hours and 45 minutes, a lot longer than my PR of 3:20 (though I will acknowledge that I went a half-mile longer than an actual marathon distance, so I can probably estimate my time was closer to 3:40).

Finally, life is more fun when you challenge yourself. It doesn’t have to be a physical challenge like a virtual marathon. It could be a creative challenge, such as hitting a designated word count on your writing project. I know a lot of people who are doing National Novel Writing Month right now, and even though I’m not participating, I know how refreshing it is to say, “Wow, this is really hard, but I am going to do it anyway.”

Seriously, if you have the chance to do something crazy these days, I say go for it. When we all look back on 2020, I want to have memories like this one. I never thought I would be one for virtual races, but I’m learning to adapt as best I can.

And I want to learn how to adapt in other ways. This is a year where we’re really limited when it comes to experiences, so we have to carve out new methods of stimulation. Who knows how much longer pandemic restrictions will continue, but there’s a good chance that we’re looking at a few more months. What challenges do I want to subject myself to that will make this whole period of life much more fulfilling?

Am I going to finish revising The Tide and the Stars?

Am I going to complete a rough draft of a sequel to The Purple Bird (which, if I haven’t mentioned, will be titled Return to Nalgordia)?

Am I going to finish some home renovations?

Am I going to…what?

There are plenty of challenges I can take on. I just need to brainstorm and make the most of this last month we have in 2020. I still want this to be a meaningful year.

On that note, I will acknowledge one exciting project I have coming up. I’ll be hosting Get Lit: Discussions on Creating Compelling Fiction and Literature with the Eastern Shore Writers Association beginning December 14 at 7:00PM. It’s virtual and it’s monthly (second Monday of every month), so if you’re interested in writing and want to join the discussion…well, I hope to see you there.

In the meantime, everyone, keep challenging yourself. Let’s find some more daily adventure in life and get through this last little bit of 2020.


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