Racing Versus Going to a Race

IMG_20130618_172808_478While I have been injured for a couple of months, I have taken the time to sit down and think about the direction that I want to go with my running.

  • What are my motivations for running?
  • What I want to achieve as a runner?
  • Which Running Shoe – Post Injury?
  • How Injuries Have Effected my 2013 Goals.
  • Racing – how does it fit into my running life?
  • How will I train to meet my goals?

In this post I want to talk about my evolving attitude towards racing and running in races and why I say it that way.

Recently I wrote a Which Runner are You? and back in February I wrote Still Just a Little Competitive. Not running much in May and June has given me an opportunity to stop and really think about how racing or should I say running in races, fits into my running life.



Racing is when:

  • I challenge myself to do more than I would in training
  • I get to compete against other runners who are around me and other runners who I know (both online or real life), who are pushing me to do better than I would otherwise.
  • Racing is also where I show others that I am not a bullshit artist, who writes fantasy stories about my running. Racing shows that I do walk the walk that I talk here on A Veteran Runnah.

Miles for Miles by David Colby Young.3The bad part about being an over-competitive old fart; is that all too often I forget and still try to either train I am or worse, race like I am still 25.

Yes, I still like push against the edge of what I can do and as I discussed in this post – Is Crossing That Fine Line Necessary?, that I all too often do cross over the fine line and end up injured.

However, this is one of those problems that I have a sneaking suspicion that I will always battle for as long as I am a runner – I attempt to do too much, too often.

Looking Back

Let’s back up for a minute, to help clarify my history in racing. In high school, I ran track and cross-country.During track in my senior year, I ran some pretty good times in the 100 and 200 yard dashes that would be considered fast even today, but really didn’t train, because I had other things that I thought were more important (girl friend, car and a job). I am not bragging but I have a little bit of natural speed that has always piqued some coaches and other runner’s curiosity to see if they could “help” me become an even “better” runner.

In 1985 & 1986, I started to take running seriously, probably too seriously and had started to train to run faster and my times were showing significant improvements and I still had more room to improve.

However, when I didn’t meet a goal race time or allowed some that I “knew” I should beat finish ahead of me, I would beat myself up pretty badly. I got so bad that I was finding reasons not to run, especially not to race or go to track workouts with the guys I was running with at that time. If I did make it to the starting line, my lack of sleep (I couldn’t sleep for 3-4 days before a big race) or being physically sick, definitely affected my ability to run, much less race.

Due to the pressures that I put on myself, I developed an extremely bad case of race anxiety, which included running in groups.

My race anxiety was beginning to affect my personal relationships, work and running. Racing became so stressful for me that after a big row with somebody that I really respected at the time (and haven’t talked to since), about my running. It came down to how he believed I was wasting my talent, because I wasn’t training hard enough and that I was avoiding racing, that I quit racing for many years.

After that argument, I took some time off from running, discovered that I still loved to run, as long as I didn’t have a race hanging over my head and vowed that I would never race again.

So for the next 25 years I ran mostly by myself or with 1-2 other people every so often, but I didn’t join any running clubs, do group runs or even race during that time. I always found excuses or reasons not to.

I am pretty sure that I only ran one race in that time and it was because a student said they would run if I did, plus another staff member shamed me into it Smile.

This was until 2012, I had gotten involved with the online running community and all the conversations and race recaps piqued my curiosity to race again. I ran in a small local race in January 2012, I enjoyed it and began running in races regularly again. The race anxiety issue seems mostly under control and while I still get a little wound up for a big race, it is nothing like the paralyzing feelings or physical illness that I used to feel before I quit racing in the 80’s.

Still Competitive

905276_513011878758925_1607604964_oTo be honest I am still very self-competitive and for most races that I run, I set some pretty challenging or ambitious – for me goals.

However, if I do not attain those goals, I don’t dwell on it as a failure like I used to. I look at the reason I didn’t meet my goals, think of ways to attain them and if I can’t, change the goals to be more realistic and meets my present needs or abilities.

The important thing that I have learned over the past couple of years it that every so often have to rein in my ego – especially when I start to look at what might have been or could be.

When I get to feeling this way, it is usually because I start letting my dreams, become delusions of grandeur. In other words I get a little too full of myself.

You know that – well if I only… train a little harder, run repeats a little faster, run a few more miles a week, find a training partner who is a lot better than me to push me harder, that I could run faster and become more competitive at bigger races in my age group, etc.

Deep down inside me – I know pretty much what kind of runner that I really am, a decent local age grouper, who every so often will pull a race out of his butt or do well if some of the faster runners in the area are at a different race.

However, I also know with absolute certainty, that I don’t have

  • the necessary focus to go for the win no matter what and
  • that ability that all better runner’s have to embrace and push through the pain to the other side, that would be necessary to move to the next level as a runner.

I am fine with who and what kind of a runner that I have become, but every once in a while…well I forget and I have to get back to reality versus wishful thinking. There is nothing wrong with having big goals or dreams, but at the same time, the big goals have to have at least one foot rooted in reality.

going to a Race

Start 25th Josephs 5K- Video Capture - David Colby Young

Going to a race is the social side of running where I get to meet and talk with other runners. While social media is great for staying in touch, it does not replace face-to-face interaction with other people that I believe we all need.

Running in races gives me the opportunities to develop friendships, have discussions about running or even talk about something outside of running, then if we want, after running we might even share a glass or two of our favorite beverage, while we are swapping lies – err ahhhh stories about things we have done.

This is the side of running that I missed for so many years and wished that I hadn’t.

Going to a race doesn’t mean that you don’t try your hardest when the gun goes off, until you cross the finish line, because I definitely do – if my last race is any indication a little too hard. Going to a race for me means that I don’t have that all or nothing mentality that I used to have when I was racing seriously. Now I focus on my effort and while I am disappointed when I don’t meet the goals that I set, I don’t worry about it too much either.

While I have been injured, I have volunteered to help out at the Quarry Road Trail Race Series and have loved my experience. I worked on the registration table for a couple of weeks and through that I have gotten to meet a lot more of the local running community, than I would have if I had just run the series.

I have found that you don’t always need to run in a race to participate or have fun at a race. That even while I have been injured there is room in the running community for me to still be a positive part of it and continue to give back to the sport that I love.

There is a need for volunteers and spectators who support runners, instead of always being the runner. It took me a long time to learn this one.

Different sides of the same coin

I am beginning to really enjoy both sides of the racing/going to a race coin and now that I am finally finding a good balance between the two sides has allowed me to get past my old race anxiety issues.

I am also learning that when you go to a race what you do before and after race is just as important as what we do during the race. How we treat one another at those times says a lot about who we really are, sometimes much more than what we do between the time the gun goes off, to crossing the finish line.

The reality is that

As I have gotten older, going to a race is less about the time or distance I run that day. It is more about the people I meet while there, the experience I have and making the day something to remember beyond just another race.

So if you happen to see this old coot at your next race, stop and say hi and maybe we can swap some lies about how our running is really going.

What do you think, is there a difference between racing and going to a race, or are they the same thing to you?

Photo Credits: Miles for Mills 5K and Joseph’s 5K photos by David Colby Young

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