Why We Race Part 5

At the end of 2010, as people planned and posted their race schedules for 2011, I couldn’t help wondering where all these people got their motivation. I have goals and experiences that I look towards in the coming year, but somehow racing just wasn’t that important. Why?

I emailed a wide-ranging group of blogging buddies and sent out a general bulletin on the Endurance Athlete Project asking some simple questions:

Why do you race? Why are you willing to pay to run on public streets or trails, sometimes paying large amounts for travel and accommodations? Why are you willing to plan a race around a particular weekend? What ARE your motivators to race?

Part 1 was my introduction, while Part 2 , Part 3 and Part 4 began the sharing of people’s responses. Here, in order of receipt, are some further responses:

Craig, Let’s Do This “Again”: In reply to Why do you race?
Over the years I have thought about this more times than I could ever imagined. Having spent so many years lining up against others for races.

The question was put out there by you of “Why do you race”?

I’m sure there will be more answers to this question than I ever would have thought possible. That being said, I look forward to everyone else’s responses.
For me though it is all about the personal challenge of being put up against the next person and competing. 
The most average persons on the street and this includes myself, can do remarkable things when faced with oppositions and challenges that we internally question if we can complete.
This was and still is my number one driving force.
 I personally like the training that leads up to the race, no matter what the race is. I have been fortunate in my life to compete professionally and on the amateur level at all sorts of sports. I have never been one to get locked in to one thing and only one thing. This could also be a reason that I have never quite accomplished what was believed by others that I should have. But in reality its not about them,its about me. I also have to believe this is what draws me so close to multi sport racing and training.
I love being pushed, and I love pushing myself. More in athletics than anything. I love lining up and looking to the left and then right, just to see the faces of pressure and fear. 
I love the butterflys and nausea that comes with it. It’s amazing how when the gun goes off, or the gate is dropped that it all goes somewhere else. 
I don’t even mind paying to race. Having been around some type of competition nearly all my life I have come to appreciate what goes in to putting on events. I think promoters should be compensated to an extent. There is a fine line to the business aspect to all of it though. Some deserve more than others,some deserve less. 
The expense of traveling to destinations is a choice. A choice me make to enhance the adventure that we are currently on at that time in our life. Personally I like to compete as local as possible, but that hasn’t always been the case.That is just where I’m at right now in this adventure.
My motivation to race right now is really all about what I just wrote, where I’m at in my current adventure.
 I think the only difference now is that I see it as a total life change, a lifestyle change if you will. I like the discipline it affords me. I like that I have to push myself to reach certain goals. I don’t have any pressures of having to compete for a living. I just get to compete to live, and live a better and fuller life because of it. 
I appreciate more so now than I ever have, the commitment that people had,have and will make to pursue there dreams. I know this means so many different things to so many different people.
From weight loss, to family and friends that faced tragedy. We all had some light switch that has been turned on to do what we think is best, and we do are best to fulfill the dream we saw, and the vision we have.
I think I like to race more just to be surrounded by like minded people. The race itself is just the icing on the adventure cake.
For me it all comes to this. It’s not necessarily about the destination, but the adventure and getting there.
Tracy, Our Life with 3 Guys and a Doll: There are a number of reasons I like to race…

~ I like the adrenaline rush and the excitement of race day. It’s like a party with a bunch of people I’ve never met.
~ I’m a newer runner and having an ‘official’ time for the distance makes me  feel more legit.
~ Accountability…I’m more likely to faithfully train if I’ve paid the money, particularly for the more expensive, longer distance races.
~ Goals… I ran xx time in 09 for this race. Can I get a new PR in 10?
~ Swag…cool shirts are a fun addition to my running wardrobe.
And it’s just plain fun. 😀

Jill, Run With Jill: I think racing was either embedded in my genes at birth or I latched on in high school or college track – but somewhere along the way, racing transitioned from those college day “have-to’s” into a “I can’t wait to” and I’ve literally run hundreds of races in my 26 years of running since college because I truly enjoy them.

I haven’t continuously had a wild love affair with racing, I have taken long stretches off for a barrage of reasons; but I tend to always find my way back to the racing circuit, and I’ll try to explain why as best I can.

Marathons:  First and foremost – I love how the training makes me feel pure and whole and clean.  I love how my body just responds to the task at hand and excuses become absent from my vocabulary; my goal racing a marathon is to finish feeling strong and I know I cannot train half-ass and except to cross feeling good, therefore I must train hard and train well.  If I have a marathon race on my calendar, I am focused and driven and pushing myself past it’s comfort zone – and I thrive for that, because mentally, I fight demons telling me constantly I cannot.  I went from running the mile in high school and college to a crazy seduction for the marathon because a personal tragedy in my very young life left me angry and bitter with so much hurt inside that I had to take that mile and turn it into something physically more demanding; I turned one mile into 26.2….and the physical pain shut out most of the emotional pain.  Second, I love being able to do something that most cannot.  I don’t mean that as self-rightous bragging rights, I just truly believe we are all capable of doing more than we think we can and I grateful I am one of the few who has had the courage to find out I can. 
So why an organized marathon race where I get to spend ridiculous amounts of money vs going outside and running the same distance?  First, because if I have a scheduled race on the calendar, that becomes the challenge.  That becomes the focus.  That becomes the goal to make sure I have done all I can do in the allowed time to get the job doing, having left no stone unturned, so I can finish well.  If I put a date on my calendar to “go run 26.2 miles” on the trails by myself, I know my weakness well enough to I know I could potentially move that date back indefinitely until I felt “ready” and I’m not sure the mental demons and anxiety would ever tell me when that time was.  Races make me accountable to be prepared by the date it’s run.  Second, I love to travel and I love to run so why not combine the two and travel to a marathon.  I have run one marathon, of the 17 I have done, living in the town where the race was held (Rocket City) and I have to say that the race does not hold as much personal, emotional meaning as others I have sacrificed to travel to.  The marathon race is also are my own personal time and space, something I do for me.  I do not like to take my family to marathons, I selfishly (or unselfishly) want to reward myself for all the hard work I put in to get there and I want to savor the time with myself or with fellow marathoners I know.  I do not want to be social director to my family and truthfully, my family doesn’t fully understand the emotional journey the marathon race is for me and how difficult and straining it is on my body.  A classic example is when I did take my daughter, Abbey, to Tucson with me last year.  I had just fired my personal trainer and I was pretty much a basket-case and when tears started flowing after I picked up my race packet and didn’t have him to talk to about some pre-race things stewing in my brain, and she told me to “Snap out of it.”  She also wanted to trek all over the UofA campus the night before the race and didn’t understand how I wanted to stay off my feet from any long walks and no, I wasn’t eating spicy Mexican food that night, either.  As soon as I returned from the race, she asked how long before we could go get some food…I just wanted to take a long hot bath and go to bed.  She really was good about it all after I had to explain, and supportive of the race, but it wasn’t the mother/daughter vacation she envisioned and I had a ton of guilt over it.  So it’s just easier for a performance marathon to go by myself or with other running friends.  And third, I think it’s a blast to meet up with others I know at marathon races.  Boston was a blast, mostly because of the friendships forged.  San Francisco the same.  Portland, I ran with part of a group from RW as part of a team and after the race we had a huge party and it was so much fun.  Just to name a few.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pull many blog runners from afar to come out to Colorado to go for a long run, but I bet you can get a few to meet at a race where rewards of race shirts and medals and support crowds clapping for you are abundant.  And forth, I just love the whole spirit of everyone involved in a marathon race.  I love standing at the start line of a marathon knowing all those around me have trained so hard to be standing there with me.  I love their stories of what it took for them to get there.  I love the smiles on their faces or the tears of emotions when they cross the finish line.  I feel pretty damn lucky I’m part of a very special, unique group of people.  And finally, I love the hardware.  I love to hang my medal, the grand prize, on closet door to remind me daily of the sacrifices I’ve made to earn it or take me away on a little excursion for a few minutes when the day’s rough and I can go back in time for a bit to a very happy place.
Shorter races of less than a marathon:
– Speedwork: I know I will run faster when there is an certain adrenaline rush of a race attached to it.  I know I just run faster/achieve a more beneficial workout if I race with others around me with the same purpose.
– They are excellent to incorporate into marathon training.
– To gage my current fitness level.
– To gage where I need more work (hills – up or down, which strength training I need to focus more on).  Kinda goes with the reason listed above, but not always, nor necessarily.
– They push me beyond my comfort zone, a sensational feeling of accomplishment I can’t seem to get when I’m on my own running.
– Sometimes I do them for fun, like the DU, just to try something different I wouldn’t do on my own.
– Sometimes I do them because friends are doing them and it’s fun to talk shop with them. 
– Sometimes I do them because I lack motivation to run more than a day or two/week and they truly do help jump-start my running.

10 thoughts on “Why We Race Part 5

  1. Loved the variety of responses. I know for me, a lone-wolf female, I enter trail races because I can't do them by myself without risk. I once went back to a trail the week after a great race, but it felt dangerous and I quickly headed back. Two years later, a couple of women were attacked on that same trail, one raped and murdered. The race made it safe for a day.

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