How did we end running a race? Many of us have been thorough this. You start casually running, gradually increasing the distance, and at some point you decide it is time to participate to a race.
Or maybe you have been challenged to run a half marathon. And you don’t say no to a good challenge!
You may just start with that goal in mind. For example, you tell yourself: I want to run NYC marathon. And you plan to get there!
Or, like my sister, you find an Email where you read that someone (your brother in this case) has enrolled you into a 10K race without your consent!
Whichever is the reason, for many runners, sooner or later, it is time to be in a running event. And, just to clarify, you do not have to. If can be perfectly fine living your running – alone or with your teammates – around the blocks of your neighborhood, the local tartan track, or your favourite park.
But I want to give here my personal opinion about 10 reasons why you should try, at least once, to run a race.
1. You can gain consistency in your training
This is something true for many, and not necessarily for others. Personally, having a race in the calendar, especially if the distance is long, requires that I cannot improvise. Which implies, I need to train consistently. There is where my chaotic and spontaneous – prone to lazy or procrastinating – personality turns into a cold, calculating planner. And especially when it is cold in winter, or a hot, humid summer day, having an extra reason can help a lot.
2. You can make new friends!
I have met new people in these runs, and although in some cases these have been remaining temporary acquintances, in other cases I introduced in my life extraordinary people, that sometimes help me with advices and support, before or after a race (and I like to think, that this is mutual too).
3. You will have a lot of fun facts to tell!
My personal experience tells me that every time I run a race, I collect some memories of that weekend that will remain with me. I mention weekend, because is not only race related (how it went, what was my final time, my sensations before and after), but also, and often most importantly, about what is around the race. For example, the people I met in the pub after the race, what did I do the night before, that setback that made me almost be late… and so on.
These memories will not only be yours and nice to resurface time to time in your mind, but be useful to bore to death non-running friends, which if they know you well, will know that you will start telling that funny story that will last at least 20 minutes…
4. You may improve your performance
Trust me, you will. And this is not only because you will probably have a consistent training, but because the atmosphere of the race, with the crowd cheeing for you (yes, you, regardless you are in the first or last 5%, or most probably, in the anonimous belly of the big snake that a long line of runners looks like). And if you will have your name on the BIB number, they may shout your name. Plus, you may have thousands of runners around you. A mutual motivation that will lead you to the finish line!
5. You will get free stuff
Yes, of course you pay for all of it. But you will most probably get a finisher medal, a running t-shirt and, in some races, a lot of surprising items in the race pack (I have seen races in Italy where the race pack looks more like a 4 people family weekly grocery shopping!). And most probably, a banana at the end of the race.
6. You win, so you can celebrate!
Yes, you are not only a finisher, you are a winner! You won against the version of you who wanted to stay in bed, or the version of you who told you could not do it. It does not matter how it went, you are a winner! And a winner deserves to celebrate the win. Beer, wine, champagne, or just a motivated sense of accomplishment: you chose the way. Be grateful to yourself!
7. You can get good bargains
Many times the expo where the race pack is handed over has a section where expositors can show merchandise and sale running-related stuff at very good prices. I found often some good bargain (or probably it was the excitement and my willingness to spend money on running at its highest!).
8. It is a good excuse for traveling
How many times have you considered to visit a specific place, but you procrastinated? It is never the right time, after all. A race will give you that sense of urgency: the date is fixed, not by you, so it is now or never (actually it is now or next year, but still…). It worked for me, I am sure it can work well from you, giving that push to spend nice weekends in interesting locations.
9. You get the finisher medal
I already touched the topic of free stuff before. But the medal deserves a special mention. There is a big difference between a participation award and a finisher medal. It is not given, it is earned. And all those memories we discussed before at point 3 will be embodied in this precious symbol of personal accomplishment. But be careful: If you run many races, you will need soon a new wall to hang all these medals (and eventually to relocate!)
10. You can challenge yourself
Running a race is a challenge. But why do you need a challenge? You may have many reasons to challenge yourself. You may be in a period where you want to prove yourself. Or your life is a bit boring and requires a spark. You may want to show yourself you can achieve a goal. Running in that regard is fair: luck is not really part of the game. If you work out, you will improve and vice versa, if you don’t. And think: once you have learned that that limit was something in your head, and that you could do it… wouldn’t you be ready to apply this philosophy in many other aspects of your life?
After all, if you got there you survived a lot of weeks of training, sticking on a commitment on the good as well as the bad days: this tells a lot about you, and goes beyond the running practice.
A race can be a great way to challenge yourself. But please, keep the level of the challenge healthy and just with yourself!
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