Monday, May 24, 2010

Expectations -or- Why Don't I Run More Races?

It's a funny thing.. there was a time when I signed up for and ran races just for the thrill of it. I didn't care how I did, it didn't mean anything to me. I cherished the experience of a newbie runner, trotting along side 600 or 6,000 other runners somewhere in the middle.. just soaking in the experience, and treasuring the fact that I felt "normal." If someone handed out a flyer at a race for another one next weekend... I'd seriously consider going. "Why not? This running thing is a blast!

Now, races must be carefully planned out. Goals set. Training executed. Race plans carefully crafted. Strategies read and re-read. Past winners' times reviewed. A race is now an "Event!"

Now, sadly I see these signs for local 5Ks or 4 milers, or whatever popping up all over the place. Midnight races, firecracker races, you name it. My kids see the signs, too. "Why don't you run in this race?" And I realize, that if I haven't trained for the event, then, I can't live up to some "personal expectations." So, the race comes and goes. And I don't run in it. And I suddenly think maybe I'm missing out on something. When exactly did this happen?

Wouldn't it be fun if you could register as running a "training run" or a "pacer" or some other designee other than "competitive?" I don't know why it bothers me, but I always think, well, if I just run xyz race in the middle of training for something else, then, it will just be a run. And then I'd be worried when people looked up my time they'd say, "Oh, wow, she was two minutes off her 5K time from last year." Even though they probably wouldn't and this is all in my head...

Somehow, I feel like doing a race "for fun" is just largely out of the question. I'm imprisoned by the fact that every race must have a purpose; a goal. But I do realize worrying about my expectations--or everyone else's (which probably don't even exist)--is really superfluous. I just need to let go of my competitiveness sometimes.

Do any of you who have raced for awhile get hung up on just running in some local races for fun?


  1. I think that as a competitive runner - and that doesn't always mean competitive against others, but more so against yourself - running a race as a fun run becomes harder and harder. You could always register for race that you decide to run for fun under a pseudo-name. Just add something unusual and fun to the process and maybe you will start to feel differently about things. Another thought is to adopt a newbie running friend and offer to pace them in their next race.

  2. Sneakersister, I LOVE the idea of the pseudo-name, I hadn't thought of that. Definitely takes the pressure off.. and I can just go out and have fun. The pacing thing definitely occurred to me, but would love to have the option at a race to enter as a "pacer" and not a "runner" so that was next to my time, you know? --Alex

  3. Alex,

    Considering the fact that I took 17 years off from running, and have only run 2 races in the past 19 years (1/2 Marathon in early October, 2009 and the 2009 MCM) I am hardly qualified to voice an opinion on your post above.

    However, that won't stop me from offering my thoughts.

    I have always been of the persuasion in that if you show up at a race, that you're there to race, not for a fun run or as a non-competitive participant.

    I do like the mindset of wanting to participate as a "pacer" to help out a training partner, etc.

  4. Phil, As always, thanks for the visit and comment! That's part of my problem. I can't not take a race seriously. But, my fitness isn't always where it should be to do my "best." However, I would love to participate in more events.. where I wasn't expected to treat it as a goal race. I wouldn't exactly be lazy... but my times would be far off from what I'm capable of when I'm at the fitness for that distance. Anyway, I do wish races would at least consider a "pacer" category.. I'd love to run with other runners, get to participate / encourage, enjoy the event.. but not treat it as a goal race for myself. --Alex

  5. I take the laid back approach. If I want to race, I race. If I want to go have fun, that option is open as well. I've paid the entry and I can do whatever I want to do within the time cutoffs. The only one who cares about my times is me anyway.

  6. Rick, You probably have a healthier approach.. then again, when was the last time you signed up for a local race under marathon distance! -Alex

  7. I love this post Alex! :) My last injury has had me contemplating the same thing. Having to slow down a bit, I am currently helping others reach their fitness goals & have been training alongside them. Sure, it's a much slower pace, but the joy of helping others is indescribable. Yet, I didn't realize how competitive I was until it was time to register with a lady [I'm training] for a half-marathon later this year. I couldn't do it at first. I still haven't registered. My competitive "speedy" pride said the same things you mentioned above. I couldn't believe I thought of what people would say when I didn't podium (local races) or PR the half-mary. I was slightly disturbed that I felt this way but I'm glad it surfaced from my heart so I can deal with it.

    My new motto this year has been "run for life." Afterall, *that's* why I do this. I love to run. I love to tri. I love to train. I love to race. Even more than those, I love to help others. And I probably NEED to have more fun, LOL. Like Rick said, the only one who cares about my times is me. I, too, am imprisoned by my strict expectations and goals. However, my goal this year is to loosen up & enjoy life more--whether I'm running for fun (to train my pride), haulin' at a fast race-pace, or simply side-by-side crossing the finish line with a newbie who's experiencing the joy of running we speak so much of. :)

  8. How are the Bennet girls these days?

    As I see it, there are two types of runners. You've got those who can put a number on but take it easy. And you've got those who can't. That's just the way it is.

    I'm of the latter type. Put a number on = race. While I practice periodization and have target races, I'll race in the meantime. Each race is its own event, each is a test. I may not run as well early in a cycle as I hope to later, but I'd be lost without them.

    So 12 days ago I ran a 10K with, what, 8,000 others, and the winner going under 28. In 2, I run a local 2.5 miler in which much or most of the field will be grade schoolers. I wear my club singlet every time, I give it my all every time. I'm happy, I'm not so much. It's what I do/am.

    Hey, you know what'd be cool? A midnight firecracker run in that tunnel you guys have.

  9. As a runner who took third in a local 5k only because there were only three runners in my age group:

    When our local, highly-accomplished athletes participate below there abilities, we all know beforehand that they are there for fun. We are proud of our local Boston Marathon runner and know, through the grapevine, where he's at in training. We've seen our local, star triathlete slow down at the hometown tri to pace friends. There is much respect in our hearts for these superb athletes when they join the event for the fun of it.

  10. Laryssa, So good to hear from you! As you, I was somewhat disturbed to admit how important my race times are to me. And I'm glad that I'm not alone in this :) I would definitely feel better relishing in the fact I'd gotten someone new across their first finish line.. maybe that would help me feel less competitive. I love the way you summed it up at the end! -Alex

  11. Joe, Lizzy is spurning poor fat Collins' marriage proposal, and determined to continue slaying the unmentionables with plenty of zombie mayhem. I've come to determine that Mrs. Bennett has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. What an interesting turn on the old literary icon!

    Seriously A midnight firecracker run in that tunnel would be a pun intended? They should just start shooting firecrackers and have them continue straight for 30 minutes. I wish they would, I'd run it no matter my time! --Alex

  12. Lorraine, So glad you are able to run in some 5Ks now, you've overcome a long road! Thanks for your reminders.. I really appreciated reading your comments. --Alex