Why Do You Race?

This post has been sitting in my drafts for quite some time.  I have been meaning to post it but there are so many different facets to this that I just never got around to finishing.  I have been running races since I was a very young girl.  When I was little a neighbor boy got very sick and passed away.  He was a local track star and our town created a 5K in his name.  Several years later his father passed away at a race and now the 5K is named for both of them.  I remember being just a young kid and running around the neighborhood “training” myself for the 5K.  I felt so proud of myself and cherished the medals I would receive for running these races.

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At one of the first races his dad handed out the medals.

In my 20’s I got back into running after a long hiatus.  At first it was a way for me to stay in shape after many years of competitive figure skating.  But over time it has become so much more than that.  It is a lifestyle.  I managed to drag my husband into the sport and together we would run countless miles.

You can be the star of your own race: A few years ago I asked my husband if he would do a race with me.  At the time we ran almost every day and averaged 6-10 miles per run.  But he really didn’t want to race.  He still was hesitant to consider himself a runner.  In high school he was a state champion hockey and lacrosse player and had played years of Division 1 college hockey.  Although not as competitive as I am (lucky for him) he didn’t really want to join a competition that he felt he wasn’t prepared for.  I tried so hard to convince him that road races weren’t anything like that and finally after months of prodding he agreed to try one.

I of course had to pick a 15K distance for his first race.  It also happened to be one of the most challenging courses I have ever done.  Talk about setting the guy up!  We started at the back of the field and plugged our way along the course.  After we hit a gigantic hill at mile two, something happened.  The crowds cheering everyone along got to him and he got into a groove.  Slowly we started passing people and he came into his own out there.  By the end we finished with a very respectable time.

Later that day we were enjoying a post run beer at a bar.  We were still high off of our race together and recapping everything we liked about the race.  He was most excited about how fun it was to be out on the course with other runners of all paces.  Everyone was doing their own thing and most people were having a really great time.  No one was out there worrying about who was in first or who was in 300th place.  So many people were out cheering along the course for others they had never met and there were so many volunteers making sure the runners had a safe and fun time.

My husband looked up at me and said, “Why don’t you look for another race for next weekend?”  Thus began a spring of races in different towns almost every weekend.  It was awesome!  For both of us, former competitive athletes, it was an opportunity for each of us to feel that competitive drive again but on our own terms.  We could push ourselves to the brink of our own abilities and cross the finish line a success, not because we won, but because we were still winners on our own terms.

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We are a community: A few weeks ago we did  the Terry Fox 5K in Central Park.  It was a free race with so many participants and volunteers.  When we arrived and I saw everyone wearing their race shirts and all of the volunteers out working for such a great cause, I got tears in my eyes.  Seeing the camaraderie among the running community is something so very special.  While many of us go to run our best races and we have worked incredibly hard, we are also there to be part of something bigger.  Together we create a very special and caring place that goes beyond running.  It makes me so proud to be a part of this.

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You can run for charity:  This past summer I was given the incredible opportunity to coach the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Team Momentum.  Over 100 runners from Chicago and across the country came together locally and virtually to raise funds and train for the Chicago Marathon.  The vast majority of these people were first time marathoners and some were even first time runners.  Many of them had very personal connections to muscle disease through friends and family.  They committed themselves for months to raise their funds for the MDA and train their bodies for a marathon.

Getting to watch a group of athletes work for a better good and for a charity that meant so much to them and myself was one of the best experiences I have ever had.  They cheered each other on, they joked, they cried, and they pushed themselves to places they had never been and may have never imagined going to.  While running was a big part of this experience, it went beyond just the sport.  This was something much bigger.  Every person who had the opportunity to be a part of the charity program had a fantastic experience.  In return for their hard work they were provided with everything they needed to have a first class marathon experience.  By the end I got to see 135 athletes cross the finish line and become marathoners.

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For many of us running is a huge part of our lives.  We take for granted each day that we can use our muscles in so many ways.  To have the opportunity to fundraise and run for those who might not be able to was a very special experience.  It was a true testament to the fact that most often, it really is about more than just running.

Why do you race?

24 thoughts on “Why Do You Race?

  1. What brought us to know each other is our connection to Team Momentum, and I’m so blessed to see all that it has brought into my life already! For me, running has been my therapy. Dealing with my son’s struggle with muscle disease has been the biggest challenge of my life. I had to learn how to not only push myself beyond limits, but push someone else as well. I think you said it best – it is amazing to use your muscles and even push them to the max, when some struggle to use them. Running also helps you with the “I can’t”s. I used to say that I couldn’t do more than 3 miles, then 5, 8, 10…. it’s amazing what you can do when you put one foot in front of the other. But yo can’t just do it for yourself, or your son, or something specific. I think it has to be something greater. Those small things leave your mind when it gets really tough. I have to keep going for everyone struggling, or everyone cheering me on from the sidelines, or everyone depending on me after we have fundraised. Running is bigger than us.

  2. I race because it keeps me motivated. Signing up for races forces me to train and keep running every week no matter how busy I am. It eliminates and invalidates all excuses. Last year I stopped running and I had a ton of excuses for myself: the weather is cold, its getting dark early, my wife is pregnant, I just had a baby. So this year I signed myself up for a half marathon in January, and you can bet I’ve found a way to run through everything: through cold weather, through darkness, around my son’s schedule. If there’s a will there’s a way, and racing gives me the will to keep running.

  3. I don’t love racing, but can definitely relate to the community point you made. Not just the general running community but even your own little community of runner friends. Getting together with friends to race is by far one of my favorite things to do. We generally have all different paces so we may not see each other much during the race but just being there together and seeing each other afterwards is a lot of fun!

  4. For me, I think the biggest thing is that a race is official, and that makes me push so much harder than if I’m just running by myself or with others. Having an official time for an official distance is huge for me mentally, and really enables me to push myself and see where my limits really are.

  5. I wrote a post of a similar ilk not too long ago, and I agree so much with what you say here: when you run/race–you are at once yourself/your own superhero as well as part of something greater. You benefit others by benefiting yourself. You are competing with yourself–very few of us will ever win a race that we are in. But we do it anyway. We learn to drive ourselves, but others are there when we need them.

  6. I race because it keeps me training, otherwise it’s very easy to come up with reasons to avoid long runs. I just finished (poorly) my sixth half. I love race day – the camaraderie with all the other runners, the people cheering along the route, the feeling of really accomplishing something not everyone else will even try. I’ve been running for seven years. My husband just bought his first pair of running shoes. Wish us luck!

  7. I “race” because it helps to keep me level or sane. It helps me forget any challenges going on in my life and makes me a better person. A better mother and wife, a role model for my two little girls (4 and almost 2). Signing up for races and having goals keeps me motivated and focused. I feel better when I run. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I do 90% of my runs by myself, so what I love most about racing is being surrounded by people. I also like seeing the progress that I’ve made during training. It’s pretty satisfying to see hard work pay off. I have to admit that having people come out to cheer me (and the thousands of other runners) at Twin Cities was pretty special too.

    • Well, you are pretty special as it is! I completely agree with you. I run by myself most of the time too. So it is motivating to run with others at races. I also agree that racing is a great way to truly see how you are progressing.

  9. Similar to bouchet I also enjoy racing as a motivator to keep me running. But then again I really enjoy running and when I’m unable to then I miss it.
    I also race because I love the feeling of sharing this experience with others, the “goosebumps” that I get when running past spectators and they’re cheering you on, not even knowing who you are… and then crossing that finish line! Oh boy do I love that feeling! It makes me feel accomplished, knowing that all my training has done something that my body couldn’t do a few years ago (or even weeks ago as I get better and better).
    Oh, and I love the medals 😉

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