Why Do You Race?

When does 3.1 miles become 5 kilometers?  When it’s done in a race.  A recent comment from a fellow Twirunner (Twitter Runner?) and Running Blogger, who’ll go anonymous unless she says I can say otherwise, got me thinking about what it is that compels me, and others like me, to enter and run in races.  She told me that she missed her goal pace for a 4 mile race by 14 seconds per mile and seemed pretty bummed about it.  I won’t make the obvious point that 99% of the US population would have loved to be at her level of fitness (unless I just did), but I will make the point that she was running the race not to come in with a podium finish, but to achieve a personal goal, which I believe is a large part of why the vast majority of us choose to enter races rather than simply say “OK, I’m going to wear my racing flats for this run of 3.1 [or 6.2, or 13.1, you get the point] miles and go for a personal record today.”  For me at least, entering a race allows me to focus on that moment being the one that I have planned on as the time I am going to reach for a new low [time].  Races are my vehicle to get to a place that I would not trust myself to get to on my own.

Of course, it helps to have dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of people running alongside you, but when you’re gasping for breath and bearing down for that final kick, it’s just you and the road.  For me though, it’s not just the other racers or the crowd that make the experience worthwhile, although both played a huge role in finishing my marathon.  Call me silly, but I love the ritual of racing, picking out just the right singlet, shorts, and even socks, lacing up my wicked light flats, pinning on my number using the same method I have since high school, even going to pick up the race packet, all these things put me in the mood to run faster than I would stepping out the door any other day of the week.  Walking up to the line, I get that same feeling of nervous energy, whether I’m going for a PR or just hoping to cross the finish line on two feet.

Ironically, that has also made me somewhat of a race snob.  Last Thanksgiving I did a 5k run with my newbie sister-in-law, for whom it was a first race ever.  We walked into the building where registration was taking place to learn that 1. there were no pins for numbers, 2. despite the registration form having a spot to fill in t-shirt size , there would be no t-shirts (it should be noted that I LOVE race t-shirts and still have the one I got at my first road race 14 years ago in Hartford, CT), 3. there were no Port-A-Potties, and 4. the course was neither closed to traffic nor marked.  The best part may have been the fact that the official timekeeper was a guy with a Timex watch.  The Manchester Road Race it was not (have any readers done that race?).  I’m pretty sure I did a good amount of complaining to my wife about the lack of “amenities,” complaining she was not inclined to hear given the early hour and cold temperatures.  Whoops.

Well, this post has turned into something of a ramble, but editing has never really been my thing.  Think of it as artsy stream-of-consciousness writing, Portrait of The [Runner] As a Young Man, if you will.  My question to you is, why do you race?  I’m pretty sure you, faithful readers, range from sponsored runners to those just getting started in the sport and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy trails.


Tags: ,

4 Responses to “Why Do You Race?”

  1. mikmoore924 Says:

    Good words!

    I love races because there is something in the ordeal that helps me grow (mentally/spiritually/physically) and connects me with the community (of runners). It’s also why I love running in groups. We have this connection and, as you say, whether we run to place or to finish, we share the experience of feet on road, one after the other. We smile knowingly at each other, we encourage each other, we acknowledge that competing and completing are many times one and the same.

    Community is a powerful thing, a transformative thing (for both me and I hope the world around me as a result), and road races exemplify that for me as a runner and, I hope, for everyone involved.

  2. The Laminator Says:

    Racing is a part of my blood I guess. It’s a chance to see where I’m at. It’s a chance to prove that I’m better than I think I can be and it’s the reason I keep running and training and keeping fit. As a matter of fact, if I don’t have a race in the horizon, I don’t even think I’d still be running right now. So yeah, it’s important. I live for races, I die (a little) at races and the thrill of wondering if I’m good enough to hang with everyone around me is what keeps me coming back.

  3. Trace Says:

    I loved your “artsy stream-of-consciousness writing, Portrait of The [Runner] As a Young Man,” becuase it really reflects your love and enjoyment of the sport. I race to remind myself of the challenges in life. Crossing the finish line lets me know I can confront these challenges with hard work and extra effort.

  4. baker Says:

    great post!
    i love racing! for me, it helps to run in a pack pushing myself to keep up. im also very competitive (i have only learned in this in the last year which is when i started running/racing) so i love going against all the speedsters out there! the challenge. not knowing whether i will finish the race. most importantly though… is that feeling you get the minute you cross that finish! accomplishment, pain, and generally just feeling alive!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: