It’s Fit Friday and in what should be terribly unsurprising news, I’m traveling… AGAIN. This time the hubs and I are in Washington visiting his family and going to the Mariners game tomorrow to see Ken Griffey Jr get inducted into the Mariners’ Hall of Fame. And so again, my blog has been relatively quiet this week.
Thinking about what to write this week, I was coming up with a blank. I thought about linking to some of my favorite Fit Friday posts – but how boring is that? Then I considered writing about training or an upcoming race. Then it hit me… why not talk about something my non-runner friends ask a lot – why do you race?
It’s a great question. Rarely do I race with the possibility of winning (ok that’s never…but coming in the top 3, that happened once). Racing can be a painful experience and when you don’t hit your goals it can be an emotional drain as well. So why do runners put ourselves through it? Lots of magazines and websites recommend signing up for a race to give yourself a goal and to keep you committed to your running schedule. And yes, especially in the beginning, that’s definitely part of it. But once you’ve been running consistently for a while, a race may give you goals to train for but you don’t need it to lace up the shoes and head out the door.
I thought back to my first race in 2008. I had been running off and on for about a year and a half. At some point, after I was able to run 5 miles without taking a break, I decided I wanted to run the local big 5k – The Carlsbad 5000. I wanted to have the shirt that I had grown up seeing worn around the area and I wanted a medal (given to the first 250 finishers in each wave). And I got both… as well as learned a lot about the racing culture. But I didn’t race again for 2 years. After running my 2nd race (Superbowl 10k 2010), I had caught racing fever. I run in a race about once a month (give or take) and to date I’ve participated in over 50 races.
Considering this, I feel a little qualified to tackle this question. Yes we race to keep our training honest and to hit new PRs. We pick long distances such as the marathons and trail races to challenge ourselves and endurance. We look to 5ks to test our speed. We pick races in places and cities we always wanted to visit. But as someone who races often, every race can’t be about placing in my age group or securing a new PR. (Although it’s always nice when these things happen and reflect how training is paying off!)
So why else run a race? We run races to be with our community. We all don’t run with clubs and groups and friends, but race day we are all out there together. Many us of are fighting nerves and some of us are quiet, focusing on the race strategy. But we are shoulder to shoulder with a hundred or 20,000 other like-minded crazy people who also got up before dawn, eating bananas, tying our shoes, and putting our favorites running clothes. We hang out in trash bags when its raining and huddle under the small strip of shade in the sun together.
And then there are spectators. Our friends, our family, who come and stand in the heat, the rain, and wait for a glimpse of us running by. They are the ones who tried to keep sleeping we wake up for our long runs at some ungodly hour or put up with our strange new eating habits. And there they are again, supporting us as we continue down this crazy endeavor. Racing reminds us of our community – other runners and spectators. It tells we are not alone.
This is something to consider in our fitness goals. Who is our community? Who keeps us accountable? Who supports us when we can’t do it ourselves? How can we thank them for all of that?
Why do you race? And what is your next one?