My injury is on it’s way to recovery and I am feeling very excited to start racing again! In fact, I miss racing so much that I have completely re-adjusted our summer vacation plans in order to give 100% focus to my training, getting my body/endurance/stamina back to where it was pre-injury.
Last week, my doctor gave me the okay to run/walk the 2nd half of the San Francisco Marathon at the end of July, I am beyond elated. As an ambassador for the race, my initial plan was to run the full but my injury totally shattered that dream, I was even dubious about the half given those SF hills but after hearing of my accomplishment at SLO, the doctor said “You’re definitely getting better, so go for that SF half!” so of course I will and I CAN’T WAIT!
I started racing in April 2009- that First Race Ever was a hilly trail 5K but as soon as I crossed that finish line, I was hooked. At that race, I saw other runners wearing matching shirts and decided to get a bunch of like-minded friends together to run and make our own matching shirts, then challenged my “team” to at least one race a month. Sometimes two. And, yeah, okay, sometimes three in one month- just because there are so many great races out there and just because I love racing that much! And here are 13 reasons why…
1) I love racing because races allow me to set a plan and accomplish my goals. When I sign up for a race I immediately create a training calendar, working backwards from the longest run date (the longest pre-race run being 3 weeks prior for a full, 2 weeks prior for a half and one week prior for the shorter distances). Having a set training calendar gives me plan for every work out and/or rest day and gives me the daily motivation I need to get up, lace my shoes, and head on out the door. If I accomplish the training, I know I will accomplish the race, no matter the distance.
2) Racing is a fantastic litmus test for my training. Of course, I always attempt to stick to my training plan but life (or laziness or hangovers or just the sheer pleasure of sleeping in) tends to get in the way sometimes and I may skip strength training or not put as much effort into speed work or walk the hills I know I should be running… all that shows come race day. Races teach me where my training discipline lacks. To me, every race is a new lesson in how well my training is actually working.
3) Races are basically one big fitness party! If you know me in real life, you know I like to be social and I like to go to parties and I like being surrounded by like-minded people and races are exactly that! From bib pick-up at the pre-race expo, to that feeling of excitement within the starting corral, all the way to the finish line festivities, it’s just one big party that everyone paid for, therefore want to be a part of! Races, to me, are just plain FUN!
4) I love racing because I love running. Duh. Even people that say, “Oh I’m not really a runner.” will attempt a 5K. If you love running, it’s just what you do, racing is pretty much part of the running lifestyle- you pin those numbers and get to work. I know so many people that started with small distances and are now accomplishing bigger goals like full marathons, 50Ks, 50 milers, and even 100 mile races (even *I* want to go ultra someday)! If you love running, you’ll want more running, therefore, more racing!
5) Never underestimate the power of awesome schwag! Yes, I also love racing because I honestly love race schwag. From the personalized bibs, to the race shirts, medals as big as dinner plates, imprinted sweat check bags, protein bar samples, running magazines, and the like all included in your registration fee, races are like a runner’s Christmas. Opening that schwag bag, wearing that medal, feasting on all the post-race food stuffs, races feel like a holiday to me, complete with PRESENTS!!! Doesn’t really get better than that!
6) Run a race, make a new friend. Even when I go to a race alone, I am sure to start easily chatting with a stranger runner next to me. Maybe that’s because I am loquacious to a fault but I think that also has to do with runners just being awesome people! I’ll meet someone in my starting corral, we’ll exchange pictures, I’ll see them later in the race and we’ll check in on how the other one is feeling, I’ll see them again after the finish, we’ll raise our free beers in cheers and the next thing I know, we’re friends on Facebook and exchanging our race calendars thereby growing our running circle of friends.
7) Run a race, see old friends. Even when I go to a race alone, I’m not alone for long. We have a lot of great race companies here in the San Francisco Bay Area- road and trail alike- and after so many years of running, racing, and being involved with my local race community, it is inevitable that I will see someone I know at each and every race I participate in. On race morning, I love thinking, “I wonder who I’ll run into today!” and then at the race, seeing a running buddy, giving big, sweaty hugs while we both say at the same time, “I didn’t know you were running this one!” Love that!
8) Races allow me to see my favorite state in a whole new way. Born and raised here in California, I thought I knew Oakland and its surrounding cities pretty well- happily, I was wrong. Racing in all different cities throughout California is a goal of mine- running remains while the backdrop always changes. I don’t sign up for the same race year after year after year (only 2 exceptions to that rule: Nike SF and See Jane Run) because I truly want to try them ALL! Road AND trail!!!
9) I love races because of all the sundry running outfits, shoes, and costumes. I admit I like to people watch and depending on the race, you’ve got about 1,000-30,000 people to gawk at and I am always looking at what people are wearing, be it cute, uncomfortable, or festive. More and more runners are racing in costume lately and let’s not forget the joy that comes with a charity racing uniform covered in photos and motivational quotes. I love seeing people love running so much- so much so that they will don almost anything during a race! (Don’t get me started on Bay to Breakers though.)
10) Races wouldn’t be nearly as special to me if it weren’t for all the spectators. Even at a trail run where no one is cheering you along the way, you will still get your share of hooping, woo-hoo-ing, and hollering when you cross that finish line whereas at road races, you’re surrounded with strangers yelling “GO, GO, GO!” while holding up some sort of hilarious motivational sign. I take energy from the spectators, I feel inspired, I return their smiles and am motivated by them to keep on pushing.
11) I love racing because of the challenges therein. Be it a course I have never seen before, elevation higher than I’ve ever climbed, a nagging injury I must deal with, or a PR goal I have in mind, racing always presents me with new challenges that I happily embrace. I don’t believe one can grow in the comfort zone. I will not hesitate to sign up for a “hard” race in order to push myself past what I know I can already do. I want to do more, push harder, get tougher and races give me ample opportunities to do just that.
12) Racing is forever EXCITING! Nothing can ever come close to that feeling of pre-race excitement- it starts low in my gut and flutters up to my chest so much so that I can never sleep the night before a race. Even though I’ve done close to 70 races to date, I always feel a brand new nervousness with each race and embrace that sense of fervor leading up to that moment I cross the starting line.
13) Racing allows me a very genuine path towards earning my celebration food and drink. I’m injured right now so this isn’t as apropos but when I am not injured and am dedicated to my training, I eat healthily and wisely and do not eat “bad” food nor drink alcohol on a regular basis; but, when I cross that finish line, you better not stand in the way of me and my bacon cheeseburger and bottle of red wine or I will wrestle you immediately and directly to the ground.
Now it’s your turn! What do YOU love most about racing?