A Race Doesn’t Always Have To Be A Race

With all of the upcoming large marathons this fall, we tend to talk a lot about racing.  You see  so many posts about marathon training plans, nutrition, fueling, and hydration strategies.  These are all important topics.  But for the vast majority of us, running isn’t just about racing.  In fact, racing doesn’t have to be about racing.

When I first came back to running as an adult, I had no intentions of racing.  I had absolutely no plan on running a marathon.  Things certainly have changed!

I started running again as an adult because as a former figure skater, I needed a new outlet for exercise.  As much as I loved figure skating, I wasn’t going to hop on the ice and start doing double axels and triple salchows again (Sound like gibberish to you?  That’s how I feel these days!).  As I mentioned in my post last week, running is a wonderful sport for many of us to come to as adults, or in my case, come back to.  I ran track in my younger years and while I loved it, I put too much pressure on myself and lost the enjoyment.


The key to my comeback as an adult was to make it fun.  I know, that isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when you start running.  I eased in, took my time by slowly gaining mileage, and then after a year or so, contemplated trying a race.

My first race was a local event that I had spectated at for many years.  I knew what it was like and thought it would be a fun.  I also knew that I certainly wasn’t going to win this race and was purely doing it for something to look forward to.

The truth is, most of us aren’t going to win a race.  We will likely never win a race.  But there are other ways a race can be wonderful.

Motivation:  Running isn’t always the most exciting thing to do.  But having a goal on the horizon can really help motivate you.  If you find the thought of lacing up your shoes each morning to be a bit of a drag, a goal race can be the encouragement you need to get out there most days.

An extra push:  Sometimes we get stuck in a rut.  Many of us go out and run 1-3 miles each day and call it good.  While this is great, sometimes we want to bump the game up a little bit.  Perhaps your first goal is to make it all the way to a 5K.  That in and of itself is a huge accomplishment and there are wonderful plans created specifically to help beginners complete this goal.

Once you have completed a 5K, it can be exciting to think about that next step.  Perhaps you’d love to reach the 10K mark.  Having an upcoming race can help lift you over that next hurdle.  It can feel so amazing to see yourself accomplish a new distance.

Measuring your own progress:  I read many blogs where runners complete the same event year after year.  Some races are just more exciting than others.  I run that same local event almost every summer and am bummed if I have to miss it.  It is also a great way to see how my running has progressed.  I can determine this by my finish time, but also by how my body responds, as well as by how I feel mentally on the course.  You certainly cannot PR every race and weather conditions as well as many other variables can get in the way of a perfect run.  But races can help us to assess how we are doing.

A way to push ourselves or see something new:  A race can force us to step outside of our comfort zone.  When we ran the North Face Endurance Challenge up Bear Mountain, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  Trail running up a mountain was definitely new to us, and extremely difficult.  We had a great time and were so proud of our accomplishment when we finished.


We also love checking out Running In The USA whenever we head out of town.  Finding a local race when you are on vacation is a perfect way to get a workout in and check out some new sights.  It forces you to get out of bed, get your run in, and then you have the rest of the day to tourist it up.


Our impromptu spring break race in Florida.

Races are most often less about the race, and more so about you and your goals.  What do you like to get out of races?

8 thoughts on “A Race Doesn’t Always Have To Be A Race

  1. I’ve never “raced a race” before! Honestly, there are a few things I’m trying to do when it comes to races: be active, challenge myself (new PB’s are always fun) and enjoying the atmosphere. I’m downgrading from half to 5k this weekend and couldn’t be happier. I get to be at a great event with awesome people, heck I don’t even care if I walk the 5k.
    Great tips!

  2. I do a lot of races, but I only have 1-2 big GOAL races for the entire year. Most of the races are either 1) training runs (doing a race alleviates much of the tedium of a solo long run), or 2) an assessment of how my training is going thus far. Last year, a month before my marathon, I ran a half to evaluate my training and see if I needed to adjust my goals for the big Goal race that was the marathon.

    I also do races because they have a reputation of being of a great race, so I want to experience it for myself. I did Covered Bridges Half this year because I heard about it for so long. It was a lovely race and a fantastic weekend getaway, but in May I was no in way “race shape.” I wanted to run it to the best of my ability that I had at that time and enjoy the race experience.

  3. I’m very similar to Ellen in that I have one or two goal races and then the others I run because I’ve heard they’re good ones or because it’s one I’m enjoying with friends. I’ve become more selective with races as I’ve grown as a runner. When I started, I was all about “run ALL the races!!” which I think is common for new runners. Then you learn. Then you grow. 🙂

  4. Great commentary on races on not always being hung up on the end result. For me, it varies…as you know my long term goal is to run a marathon in every State and this year, I’ve doubled my marathon count from 5 to 10…but with that comes the acknowledgement that I am not likely to set any personal records. I won’t deny I was hoping that one of them would be a new PR but that would have been in April in Salt Lake and I faded on the back stretch as the altitude took it’s toll. In general, if a given training cycle is projecting a PR or close to it I’ll go for it…otherwise, I’m going to enjoy the experience, the challenge, the location, the people supporting us and interacting with other runners. I also look to explore new challenges…a trail marathon, maybe another triathlon next year or a long team relay event.

    • Absolutely. With the number of races you do, you most definitely need to pick and choose. Most races for me are for the “experience.” But my husband will tell you that even then, I can be a brat and still try to race every one of them. It’s a constant struggle.

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