Anyone who knows me or follows this blog knows that I love to run…they also know that I run in a good number of races on a regular basis. Which is why it may seem a little weird to hear me say the following:
Races, while fun, are NOT a requirement to enjoy running.
I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of new runners within the past couple of months, and I hear such excitement (and fear) in their voices as they talk about running in this race or that race. Can I do it? What if I’m not fast enough? Or even better…new runners that get caught up in the buzz surrounding a local big race that they too sign up – perhaps a little prematurely…perhaps without thinking about giving themselves enough time to properly train. It’s exciting to be “in the number,” trust me I understand the desire to join in the masses to run that race.
But first let’s just think about something…
Races happen every year…and there are always races happening at all times of year. So if you have to sit one out because you’re either injured, can’t afford to register/travel to the race, or because you simply are not prepared…it is OK to skip it. The world will not end. You will not lose your runner card. There are plenty of runners out there who don’t enter in races at all! Runners who run just because…ya know..they like to run.
As much as I love running and as much as I love talking to you guys about running, I love my health even more. And I would rather that you out there choose to be a smart, savvy, healthy runner than one of those runners who will jump the gun and push themselves too far too fast for the simple sake of a medal or bragging rights. I’m trying to be real with you guys here. Running is a great sport, and what I love about it most is that anyone can do it and it doesn’t take a whole lot to get started. Races can be great…and while I don’t race to compete, I enter them because it is a chance to be around a bunch of other runners at the same time…all doing what we love to do. But even if I never run another race again, I would venture to say that I will still be running those trails that I love so dearly.
For those of you who are relatively new to running or are even considering getting started, I say to you to take your time and try not to get caught up in the hype about racing. It’s cool to have a race in mind as a goal – say your first 5k, but I just warn you…it can be addictive and sometimes detrimental to your wallet and your psyche if you register in race after race after race. Imagine always being in a constant state of training…every time you lace up those shoes all you can think about is the next race you have coming up. I tell you, that can be a sure fire way to kill your love of the sport…at that point you are not running for fun, but running because you have to. I mean, even elite athletes have an off season – not every event needs to be a championship game/match.
So chill out. The races will be there. As the running community continues to grow, race directors and racing promotion companies are paying attention and thinking of all kinds of new and exciting races for us to participate in. It seems like every time I turn around there’s some new race popping up and I think that’s great. More chances for runners to get together and enjoy this sport we love so much. But also, in the same vein…I didn’t get into running for races, I got into running because I loved to run. My tip for those of you seeking to participate in a race or two is to pull together your wish list…choose a few races throughout the year that you would like to run and begin to put your race calendar together. Stick to that calendar! Other races might pop up that catch your eye, and that’s ok…add it to the next year’s race and keep your focus on the races you’ve identified for the current year. Initially I went into this year with an idea to participate in about 30 races…and after rethinking that decision I reduced it to about 13. None of them are hard and fast, for the most part I’m trying to remain flexible. If I miss one of the races or decide not to do it, hey that’s ok…because race entry fees can be costly!
Whatever you choose to do, just be smart about it and think it through. Don’t let peer pressure or the excitement of it all blind you into making some less than smart decisions when it comes to entering into races.
Moderation is key.