Why Races Aren’t About Being Competitive (and Why They Are)

Years ago when I got back into running, I signed up for a local 15k.  I “trained” for it and had an absolute blast on race day.  There was no pressure, because I had no idea what to expect.  I was just excited to be out on the course with other runners and to see what the experience would be like.  I got hooked.

I was dating my, now husband, at the time and suggested that we sign up to do a spring race together.  Having been a high school and collegiate athlete, he had no desire to go back to those competitive days.  He just wanted to enjoy his running.

I absolutely understood this sentiment, but tried to explain that races aren’t necessarily about the “racing.”  It took some convincing, but he signed up for his first two races, a 15k road race and a 10k mountain trail run.  Not the best choices to ease him into the sport, but after his first race, he told me to start finding more.

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Our first race together!

My First Race!

Why Racing Isn’t About Being Competitive

It wasn’t the “race” that hooked us.  It was the experience, the opportunity to find that inner athlete we had tucked away after our competitive days in sports.  Being among other runners, pushing ourselves to see what was our very best, and having strangers cheer for us on the side of the road, only made the experience better.

While I have had some varied success in my running, I’m almost always behind many runners who are far faster than me.  More often than not, I am not there trying to win the race, but instead to run for myself.

Part of what makes races exciting is the process.  From choosing which race and event you will be doing, to finding the right plan, it is the total package before the race even starts that makes it so fun.

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When I was competing in track and field, my dad was my coach.  One thing I will never forget was him telling me that I wouldn’t remember most of my races.  Instead, what I would remember most was the training.  He was 100% right and that still holds true today.

The process of preparing for your event, the excitement of the process, and the experience of the race itself is what makes “racing” fun.  People will be cheering you on, and they certainly don’t care what place you finish.  In fact, most people will be far more inspired by the person who finishes last than the speedster that came in first.

Why Running Is About Being Competitive

I’m not talking about coming in first.  The competition is rarely between you and the person who will win.  Instead, it is about setting goals and seeing what you can do.  Maybe you want to simply finish the 5k, or perhaps your goal is to finish without taking walking breaks.   You might have a time goal that you are working for.

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The great thing about races is that you can always set a goal, whether it is something really lofty or a smaller goal to get you through an event.  These goals can be for any distance.  The possibilities are endless, and this is what can help you to find a little competitiveness in your running at any level without taking the fun out of the sport.

Having an event or a goal to look forward to can be an extra motivation for your running.  It’s not always about getting faster.  It can simply be to make your experience better.

Why do you like to race?

Are you hesitant to try a race?  If so, I’d love to hear what holds you back.

7 thoughts on “Why Races Aren’t About Being Competitive (and Why They Are)

  1. Interesting thoughts here. I race because I love the vibe at races and I thrive on the excitement. At some of my favorite races I remember thinking to myself that I’m lucky to be able to go on a running tour of the city with the other runners around me. Not sure if I’d feel the same way (about the running tour) if I ran local races but since I always travel to races, it works for me!

    • I’ve always loved your approach to races. It is a great way to travel and be among other awesome runners. I’ve done both races and running tours to enjoy new places. There is no better way to explore a new place. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. I just enjoy the experience and the excuse to go somewhere. Also–the food and beer. My wife, on the other hand, is too competitive to enjoy a race. She’s a much better runner than I am, but she rarely races.

    • I totally understand both sides of this. I rarely race anymore because I have two young kids, but also because I’m far too competitive. My husband is like you and can simply enjoy the experience and looking forward to the beer!

      • My ten year old son loves 5k’s, so that’s something we do together now. In fact, I just registered us for a 5k trail run. You and my wife would make great training partners, I’m sure!

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