To be honest, I don’t run many races. I’ll run a half marathon on my own accord on my own routes nearly every other week, but I don’t sign up for many races.
Sometimes it’s because of the location thing and the logistics of transport and getting to the race and picking up race kits and getting home etc. etc.
Sometimes it’s because it gets costly paying all those race fees and then paying the extra money to get there and back.
And sometimes it’s because I want to do my long run on Saturday and have Sunday to have a bit of a sleep in and relaxing day with the boy.
But here’s the thing: I run a lot. Nearly 100 km every week in fact, and as a result, people are always asking “what are you training for?” “When’s your next race?” And it’s not even that I used to race a lot or talk a lot about racing – it just goes hand in hand with running a lot.
But here’s the other thing: sometimes I like to just run for myself. I like to just run my own half marathon, with no start times or crowded start lines, or 3 am wake ups to get to the start lines. Don’t get me wrong, I do love racing, and when I do it, I’m always so happy I did and it leaves me feeling giddy for the rest of the day (or maybe the next two). I just don’t feel the need to do it all the time.
And if you feel the same, it’s totally okay. With the NYC marathon just having finished, and fall being a big time of year for races, it’s easy to get caught up in it all and feel like you should be racing. But running is about more than racing. If you want to just run for running, go for it. It’s okay not to race, it’s okay not to compete, it’s okay not to have a chip timer. It’s okay to just run your run
- You’re doing it for someone other than yourself – Charity events aside, signing up for a race due to peer pressure, because your co-workers are doing it, or because you want to out-do somebody else is not the reason to race. You should sign up for a race for yourself – to beat your personal bests, to improve on your race before, to accomplish a lifelong goal.
- You don’t want to pay that much money – I’m all for paying for races and supporting causes and do believe that the money that is charged is not a rip off, especially when it comes to big races. And I’ll also happily pay to have the incredible camaraderie and atmosphere that comes with big races and bringing together that many people for a common cause, a common reason, with a common passion. But sometimes, for smaller races, or shorter distances I feel like I would rather just run 10km myself, at my own time, all by myself, for free! And it’s okay if you feel this way too!
- It’s a logistical nightmare – Pick up the race kit, find a babysitter for the kids, get the kids up out of bed at 3am to get them ready to go to your mom’s for her to babysit, get ready yourself, eat pre-run breakfast, get to the race by 5, find parking, get on the bus to the start line, find corral, eat pre-run snack, run race, find family after the race, get out of the race, deal with everything the next day in a sore, tired state . . . you get what I mean. There’s nothing simply about coordinating everything for race day. Sometimes there is something to be said for being able to get up early Sunday morning while the kids are still asleep at home with the hubby, do your run, come home and carry on.
- You don’t want to have to run through crowds – If you’ve never run a big race, the thing you hear about being careful not to trip or be tripped for the first 2 or 3 kilometers (or even the whole race), is a very real thing. And if you don’t want to have to deal with crowds, both on the course and off, including parking, race kit pick up, running and finishing, maybe racing isn’t for you. Or maybe you will just want to stick to smaller races.
- You want to volunteer instead – Do you ever come around the corner of a race route and see the water aid station and have such a huge surge of relief and gratitude towards the people standing there handing you water that you are like, “I want to be just like them!” Or maybe, when times get really tough and you would rather not be running, not be watching your watch, chafing under your shirt and hurting in your legs, you think to yourself: “why can’t I just be one of those volunteers standing there and cheering?” Volunteering is a great way to get involved in a race and is a whole different experience from that of running. And if you want to try it, it’s totally okay not to race.
- You have other priorities – Our running days will ebb and flow. There will be times of your life where it is totally reasonable to be smashing out 90 km weeks, training hard, doing hills and adding in strength training. There will be other times where, if all you can manage is 5 km a day, that’s okay too. The point is, that maybe your priorities (kids, work, career goals etc.) are such that racing isn’t one of them right now, and that signing up for a race would only leave you disappointed with the result, since you don’t have the proper time and energy to devote to training for it.
- It’s too much of a sacrifice – Yes, we all know, that training for a race is going to come with its sacrifices (sleep, social time, those extra few glasses of wine), but when it comes with sacrifices at the detriment of your health and wellbeing, or your relationships, maybe racing isn’t worth it for you. Do you start work really early and will have to be getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning to cover your miles, thereby sacrificing way too much sleep (running more means you need more sleep . . . )? Do you already have really limited time to spend with your family or partner and race training will eat up even more of that? Recognize the sacrifices before you start and know that if you aren’t in a place to make them right now, that’s totally okay.
- You can’t commit – Racing and training are for the dedicated and committed. It takes a lot to force yourself out of a perfectly warm bed, and spend a perfectly leisurely Sunday morning, covering a not-so perfect rainy, windy 30 km. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t do well committing to things, following plans and schedules and relying on your own dedication and will power, maybe racing isn’t your thing. Don’t worry: most people think we’re crazy anyway!
Whether you aren’t race ready, aren’t sure about racing, or just don’t want to fight through the crowds, don’t feel bad if you choose to run for you and run for fun, and not race at all. After all, ultimately, we are racing ourself every day, trying to be better and reach our personal bests. Run your run.