RUNNING A VIRTUAL MARATHON & THE BEST SHOES TO DO IT

Melanie Mitchell | September 25, 2020

Virtual Boston is in the books for 2020. With in-person marathons out, runners all over the world have been encouraged and inspired to run their virtual marathon anyway.

This month we checked in with two runners from Colorado who chose to run their 'Bostons' in two very different places.

Meet Kara Diamond-Husmann, who ran her race up Vail Pass in Colorado (ok, she's is also an ultrarunner!) and Jess Gillman, who ran a fast, flat race to celebrate what would have been her very first Boston.

Go forth on your own virtual marathons and races, and celebrate the journey. As theses ladies clearly demonstrate, 2020 is all about the journey.

Kara - Virtual Marathon in Vail
Running Vail Pass as the 'Boston Marathon'

KARA RUNS 'BOSTON' IN VAIL, COLORADO

by Kara Diamond Husmann

Boston Marathon holds a special place in my heart! My first Boston Marathon was in 2007 during the infamous Noreasterner. I'm usually a one and done on race courses; I want to race so many places. But, after the Boston bombings I decided I'd run the Boston Marathon every year after and nothing has stopped me from running it even a tibial stress fracture one year. There was no way I was going to let Covid-19 stop me!

Planning for the virtual marathon I knew no PR's were going to happen, so I designed my course in a town that holds a special place in my heart, Vail, Colorado.

I love the trails, but there was a 6 hour time limit to get a medal, so I knew I needed mostly road. But, I wanted to climb; I love hills! All my life I've passed the Vail pass bike route, so I thought this was the place to set my marathon route. Add to that I've always wanted to hike Shrine Trail Ridge at the top, so, because I was in charge, I incorporated that in my route too!

On the drive up to Vail, I actually started to get some pre-race jitters. As we drove by the virtual marathon course I mapped out, I was thinking, 'What? This is steep!' The elevation of the run starts at 8,700 feet and climbs to 11,900 feet. And, then I'd need to run it all the way back down and I know what downhill running does to the body.

PRE-RACE VIRTUAL MARATHON

The night before we pretended we were having dinner in the North End of Boston and made pizzas for authentic race preparation.

I packed all my nutrition GUs, Cliff Bar, Shot Blocks and 4 water bottles for the run since there would be no aid stations on this course. I'd also have to carry the clothes I start out with in the morning. Mountain morning air is chilly and there's no throwing clothes on course when it's your own route.

In the morning, I ate breakfast and gathered my gear and some signs I made for myself to carry. With my Bib number in hand, I drove off to my unofficial 'Boston' start line! The beauty of my start was an empty Porta-Potty line, I went to the bathroom and visualized being in Hopkinton walking to the start from Athletes Village.

I set my watch and off I went. No fanfare, just a beep.

The first mile I was uncomfortable and my breathing was off from being at 8,700 feet and a steep climb right away. I imagined myself at mile 1 in Boston and pretended to see the crowds lining Hopkinton and running down that steep hill instead of the climb. The miles ticked away and I fueled exactly like I do in real marathons and drank at miles I stop at aid stations.

At mile 9 I reached the top of Vail Pass at 10,600ft. I felt good. But mile 10 I started to feel the altitude and thought I have 1,300 feet more climbing to do before I reach the 'WELLSLEY girls.'

I took my mind off the climb and looked around thinking how lucky I am to be in this beautiful place. Once I hit a two-mile single track I started seeing people out on a short hike. It gave me energy seeing people. They'd say nice things and I'd think to myself, do they know I ran from Vail Village up here!

Kara - Boston Marathon in Vail
Kara with the 'Wellesley Girls' on the top of Vail Pass

Being a self-supported race seeing people was a huge mental boost. By mile 13.1 I was running along Shrine Ridge and it was absolutely beautiful, I could almost hear the WELLSLEY girls offering their support.

The turn around was here and it was all down hill. Ouch! I took in a Cliff Bar; my stomach was churning from the GUs and needing some solid food. The run down was a mental game and I kept putting myself on Boston's course to keep me running. Bikers would fly by and cheer me on; it gave me a motivational boost!

With one mile to go, I saw the Citgo sign in my head and could hear the crowds cheering as I ran in. Visualizing turning on Boylston and hearing the cheers I kicked it up a notch and sprinted to my car and stopped my watch!

I was on cloud nine!

I felt good and drove back to my condo where my daughters decorated the place. We celebrated the day pretending we were in back in Boston. I even put on my celebratory jacket and walked around Vail Village. A few people stopped to congratulate me and even a couple said they heard about me running on the pass earlier in the day running 26.2 miles and thought it was a CRAZY RUN!

I loved the day and another - albeit solo - Boston Marathon in the books.

Every Boston Marathon really does have a special story, and this one will stay with me forever.

Jess - Highline Canal
Jess with her 'rabbits'

JESS RUNS 'BOSTON' ON THE HIGHLINE CANAL TRAIL, COLORADO

I think what pushed me to do a marathon on my own steam was the fact that I had essentially been training for the Boston Marathon since November of last year.  I'd put in so many long runs, hill repeats, strength training days to help me take on Boston in April of 2020 and the thought of letting all the preparation go to waste made me really sad to think about. 

As we all know, marathon training is no easy thing. It takes time and dedication in order to run a successful marathon and I for one was not going to let it being cancelled stop me from seeing what I could do on virtual race day!

Being from Colorado, we are really lucky that we have a ton of amazing paths we can run for miles and miles! I had several options leading up to my race day but ultimately decided to run a route where I knew other people would be on that morning.  Because we had to start so early (5:00 am) I wanted a route that would be pretty popular in case of an emergency.  Sadly, being a female runner we always have to think about our safety when we are running in the dark and also being in Colorado, we have to worry about the possibility of wildlife chasing us - which incidentally did happen on the 'race' at mile 9!

There was an awesome group putting on a small race called “Boston not Boston” so we used their course for the most part which made it easier because they mapped out where the restrooms were on the route in case they were needed and also trouble spots where traffic may be crossing.  I am very appreciative of this group for doing a lot of the dirty work for me! 

Jess Boston Marathon in Colorado
A 'Boston' race day jacket is just as sweet

RACE DAY AND RACE PREP

Did I have to dig deep for this virtual marathon?

For the race itself, no! For the training leading up to the race 100% yes. 

I remember being on some long runs in the summer heat thinking to myself, “Why are you doing this? You could be sleeping in or heading to the pool versus running 19 miles”. This is when I had to dig and really think about what I wanted and why I wanted to do this race. 

For the actual race, it was such a build up to that point for myself that I was ready. I had no goals in mind for time, no thoughts on outcome only that I wanted to be with my friends, talk, laugh and hopefully sit on a pace that felt comfortable so that I could run and coach my sons 3 year old soccer practice immediately after. 

I think when you have been working up to something for so long as an athlete, when it comes to game day you know you are prepared because you trained, you know you can run that race because mentally I had run that race over and over again! 

Mentally I was beyond prepared for this day, that moment!

SUPPORT CREW FOR A VIRTUAL MARATHON

My run crew came and ran with me! Holly and Emerald had been with me from the start of this road to Boston.  Both are former Boston Marathoners themselves (2007 and 2009) so they knew how magical this race is suppose to be. They wanted to do everything in their power to make this special for me even though we were not in Boston. 

Holly had planned to run the first half with me and Emerald was going to run the last half. Holly being Holly decided at about half way that she felt good and was going to keep going, she ended up running all 26.2 miles with me. 

Emerald is the gazelle in the group and she met us half way with nutrition and Advil! She kept us on pace and even doubled back because I was having an issue with my hydration pack rubbing my shoulder raw!

Both of these girls selflessly helped me achieve my goal and they did it with a smile on their face! To them I am immensely grateful and I hope others have such an amazing community of friends that can help support them. 

Additionally, a group called Run to Change Lives had set up small cheer zones along the route and so every now and then we would here a shout from someone saying, “Strong ladies, you’ve got this!”

It was small gesture, but felt oh so mighty!

BOSTON 2021?

I plan on applying for the Boston Marathon for 2021 when that application opens.  Until then, I am just running to run and have fun. 

I have unfinished business with Boston Marathon, and so I am determined to run that course and celebrate with 30,000+ runners when it is safe to do so. 

Until then, I am just going to keep on running. 

Best shoes for a virtual mararthon

TOP FIVE MARATHON SHOES IN 2020

Brian Metzler rounds up the best of the best for your virtual race months.

There still aren’t many races in the U.S. this fall. However, you can still create your own opportunities to run fast on your own — either through virtual races, personal time trials or simulated race efforts with your running pals.

To run your fastest, you’ll need a lightweight, speedy pair of shoes. Here are five of the best shoes in a variety of price categories that will keep you on pace for fast times and inspiring new goals for 2021.

Brooks Launch 7 - womens

BROOKS LAUNCH 7

A $100 running shoe? For racing a half marathon or marathon? Is that a mistake? Heck no! The Brooks Launch 7 is an energetic and well-cushioned shoe that also comes with an affordable price tag. With a relatively light and snappy demeanor, the Launch is somewhat of a unique ‘tweener. It falls between the category of performance trainers and the wide range of high-mileage trainers that are about a full ounce lighter. But if your race goals are modest or just want to complete a 10K, half marathon or marathon at your own goal pace, this can be an ideal shoe is for you.

Plus, it can also double as an affordable, do-everything trainer shoe that’s versatile enough to endure long runs and also quick enough to run faster, shorter workouts like tempo runs, fartlek runs and track intervals.

Weights: 9.2 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 7.5 oz. (women’s size 7.0)

Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (26mm heel, 16mm forefoot)

SHOP BROOKS LAUNCH 7
Hoka Rincon 2 mens

HOKA ONE ONE RINCON 2

$115 While Hoka One One’s Carbon X is an exceptional long-distance racing shoe, we’ve chosen to focus on the fast and light Rincon model for this roundup of racing shoes instead.

Why? First, it’s a great shoe for running fast over all distances from 5K to the marathon. It's also because it’s much more affordable too. The Rincon 2 is unfettered and fast, but it still has a lot of cushioning in every stride thanks to the full-compression EVA midsole.

The Rincon doesn’t feel like a stripped-down racing flat, but the soft, smooth and energetic demeanor allows it to perform like one when you want it to. It’s light and fast enough to be an energetic performance trainer for fast workouts. It also enough cushion and protection to be a long-run shoe or even an everyday trainer.

Weights: 7.7 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 6.8 oz. (women’s size 7.0)

Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (men: 29mm heel, 24mm forefoot; women: 26mm heel, 21mm forefoot)

SHOP HOKA RINCON 2
New Balance 860v8

NEW BALANCE 890v8

$120: New Balance has several racing shoes with carbon-fiber plates embedded in their midsoles. But the 890 is the brand’s tried and true featherweight performance-oriented trainer/racer. It has always been known for its light, agile and very energetic vibe.

The New Balance 890 has been overhauled in recent years. It now includes a high-rebound FuelCell midsole, a supportive yet comfortable knit upper and a gusseted tongue for a snug, race-day fit. It has a semi-firm feel and a slightly lower to the ground geometry. This gives it excellent feel-for-the-ground proprioception and a lively feel in every stride. The 890 is fast, light, versatile and capable of taking you race-day goals. Even if your race is a virtual event or your own personal time trial!

Weights: 8.4 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 7.2 oz. (women’s size 7.0)

Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (25mm heel, 19mm forefoot)

SHOP NEW BALANCE 890 v8
Saucony Endorphin Pro - Men's Style

SAUCONY ENDORPHIN PRO

$200: The Saucony Endorphin Pro is a top-tier long-distance racing shoe. It features a carbon-fiber plate embedded in a soft, very resilient midsole foam. It debuted on the feet of Saucony pros at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February in Atlanta, including women’s second-place finisher Molly Seidel. It represents the best of Saucony’s engineering and design efforts. It’s built on SpeedRoll technology, a forward-leaning geometry that propels you forward. It has a feeling of continuous momentum, so you can run faster and more efficiently without running harder. It feels light, firm, energetic, efficient and smooth, especially at faster speeds.

Weights: 7.5 oz. (men’s size 9.0); 6.3 oz. (women’s size 7.0)

Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (35.5mm heel, 27.5mm forefoot)

SHOP ENDORPHIN PRO
Nike Tempo Next %

NIKE AIR ZOOM ALPHAFLY NEXT%

$200: The Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% mixes durability with a design that helps push to a personal best. The result is a shoe built like a racer, but made for your everyday training routine.

Nike ZoomX foam in the footbed delivers energy return as you move forward. A visible Zoom Air unit provides responsive cushioning, giving you an additional spring with your stride.

The rubber outsole features a design created using data from hundreds of runners. That information helps place traction where your foot needs it most, giving you grip on multiple surfaces.

Weights: 9.8 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 7.9 oz. (women’s size 7.0)

Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (46mm heel, 36mm forefoot)

SHOP AIR ZOOM TEMPO NEXT%