It must be that time of year where people start waking up from their running hibernation and start getting out to races, because almost all of the running blogs I read have had a race re-cap sometime in the last week or two. Am I the only one who isn’t out running races?
This has prompted me to think about my race schedule for the year, look back on all the races I’ve run, and think about my motivation for signing up for them. All this is too much for me for one post, so I’ll start with….
There are three main reasons I sign up for races:
1. It’s Fun*
2. It’s a holiday
3. To push myself
*The second two aren’t reason enough without the first. I think races should be fun, and I don’t think I should sign up for them otherwise. In the past, there have been occasions when I’ve signed up for a race that I did not think would be fun, but I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s silly. This isn’t to say that every race IS fun; I have certainly done races that turned out not to be fun, but sometimes that just happens. One of my main goals with running is to have fun, so signing up for a race I don’t think is going to be fun, well, that’s just dumb.
Sometimes I have different ideas of what’s fun. Sometimes, I think it’s fun to push myself in a race and shoot for a PR. Other times my goal is to go slow enough to chat with my sister and cousin during the Turkey Trot or wear something crazy in the Devil’s Chase. On rare occasions, different goals can overlap, like in last year’s Reindeer Run – where I was able to push myself for a 5k PR while running w/ my husband and wearing a ridiculous Reindeer hat.
However, getting a PR in a holiday race is usually the exception, not the rule. Despite this fact I really do think that holiday races are the most fun races. I’ve come to think that holidays need to be celebrated with road races, and at this point, Thanksgiving would be incomplete without a Turkey Trot. I really find holiday races irresistible. Probably because I get to dress up, and I’m able to convince family members to join me…
With that said, as much fun as holiday races are, I rarely use them as a reason to push myself. However, challenging myself is an awesome part of running, and racing has a role here too. Most of the time, when I sign up for a race “to push myself”, the pushing isn’t the primary goal on race day. If I’m trying to PR, that can be the exception, but mostly my motivation in signing up for longer races is to get myself out and running long distances on a regular basis. I love long runs, but I seem to forget that fact in the 30 min or so before I’m supposed to actually do one. Silly, brain. Once race day comes, I usually have a time goal in mind, but first and foremost, I try to enjoy myself.
When the “push myself” goal relates to a new PR or tough time goal, I need to be careful. Getting a new PR is awesome, and can quickly make a difficult race feel worth it. However, the flip side is that if I’m shooting for a PR and I miss it, the whole race might feel terrible. I want to be better about that as I shoot for my sub-two hour half marathon this year. Last time I tried this, I ended up with a 9 minute PR, but because I didn’t finish in under 2 hours, I was miserable. I thought the whole race was stupid and was disappointed and mad at myself. After that, I took a nice long break from time goals. And, hopefully, I’m better for it. I should never forget that my main motivation is to HAVE FUN.
What about you? Why do you run races? Are you capable of celebrating a holiday without a race? Do you pressure yourself to PR at every race?