Racing For Fun

I remember when I was younger all of my friends played soccer. It started out as “in-town soccer,” and for those who were serious, they eventually moved up to “traveling soccer.” Where I lived, you played soccer in the fall, lacrosse or softball/baseball in the spring, and you swam on the swim team at the local town pool in the summer. Obviously I wanted to be like everyone else, and told my parents that I too wanted to play soccer. They were all ready to sign me up and I was ready as well – until they told me how it worked; practice was on Saturdays, and games were on Sundays. The mere thought of a game and having to compete against people scared me to death – I immediately changed my mind and decided to stick with ballet and tap dancing.

Fast forward a few years, and I was taking swimming lessons. Eventually I had made my way through the ranks (our YMCA had cute group names like porpoise, flying fish, dolphin, etc.), and one of the swim instructors had a heart-to-heart with me; it was either time to join the swim team, or to move on. I really enjoyed swim lessons, and finally through a lot of convincing, I signed up for the swim team when I was in 6th grade. Little did I know, that first day on the Westfield  YMCA swim team would determine the next 10 years of my life, becoming increasingly competitive as the years passed.

Me during my non-competitive days… Love you Kate!

Why the cute little anecdote? Well, I thought it would be a good precursor to explaining how I approach running. I have an odd relationship with competition; I thrive in it and feed off of it, but at the same time, it scares me to death. I often put so much pressure on myself (as we all do) to succeed in anything and everything that I do, and it’s sometimes overwhelming. I think part of the reason why I struggle through marathon training is twofold; I don’t have nearly enough confidence to think I can do it (well), and at the same time, figure that if my training is lackluster, any time will be an accomplishment. I suppose you could say it’s a little self-sabotage. I work myself up over PR’s and placement, that I forget why I even started running and what it means just to cross the finish line.

After Chicago, though, I realized this is no way to continue my running career. Only running a few races a year because I’m constantly striving for a perfect race is absurd. I should be finding as many races as I can and running them all (as my wallet allows)! So, on my quest to do just that, this past Saturday I ran a 5k for fun – that’s right, there were clocks but no official results or scoring. There were clocks at every mile as well as the finish of the certified course, but as the event’s website says, there was no official scoring or results, “in an event to keep it friendly.”

Such an appropriate Brooks shirt!

Since I hadn’t run a 5k in over a year, I knew it would be almost impossible for me not to PR, and because it was such a small race, I had little pressure. I toed the line, and as the bullhorn went off, I booked it. Within the first quarter of a mile or so I looked at my watch and realized I was running around a 6:20 pace. I laughed and tried to reign it in the best I could, knowing I’d wind up crawling across the finish if I kept it up. Since I’m never at the front of a race (though I’m usually not TOO far behind), I forgot that there were likely people around me that could run this in about 18 minutes. Once the reality of what I was capable of set in, I was already losing steam. I crossed the first mile just under 7, and the next 2.1 were a struggle, running around a 7:30, and then a 7:20 the last 1.1. I was able to PR in 22:55 (7:23 average) and cross as the third female overall.

The race was perfect – I had little pressure on myself, and while I started out too fast, I’m happy with the run overall. And, who doesn’t like a post-run beer?! I’ve got my eyes on some more 5k’s between now and Disney… I just have to make sure my wallet will allow it!

Do you ever race for fun?
Do you prefer high or low pressure races? 

4 thoughts on “Racing For Fun

  1. My local club has a circuit of 16 races. Most of the races have less than 100 people and a core of 10 or so that run about my pace. It is fun to compete against them. Some days, I’ll be tired and they’ll all beat me. Other days, it will be someone else struggling. We get points for our age group at each race, so it keeps people coming for each race whether they are feeling “on” or not. I really love that. Running just a couple races a year is like the old saying, “Don’t put your eggs in one basket”..can be great, but more often than not, it ends in a big mess.


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