Whether someone is new to running or a veteran, races are always a fantastic experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small community 5k or a world major marathon with 30,000 other runners. The thrill of competition and trying to achieve personal goals are celebrations of life. Races let us know we can accomplish whatever it is we set out to do. But what if we fail to do that? Don’t get down because there’ll be another race the following weekend or the weekend after. Road races are so popular now across the country that if you live in or around a populated area, finding a race every weekend should be easy.
How do you find a race? Check out these websites: Raceplace, Runguides, Runningintheusa and Active. They all have race listings local to your area. You can plan accordingly as races are listed months in advance.
What distance should you do? That’s up to you. If you’re new to running, I’d recommend starting with a 5k just to get a feel of a race. Then, you can work your way up to longer events such as the 10k or half marathon if you so desire. If you’re content with 5k runs only then great. If you just want to do half marathons or even marathons–again that’s fine too. This is just my recommendation.
Some beginners might be intimidated by a large half marathon or marathon. Seeing hundreds of others runners warming up, stretching and appearing to take the whole thing seriously might be daunting for someone who’s never entered a race. Think back to learning to swim if you can. Did you start immediately in the deep end? No. At least I didn’t. You worked your way to the deep end after wading in the shallow end. That was so you could get a feel of being in the water while learning the basics of swimming. This is similar. Start with a small community 5k with only a couple hundred or a few dozen people.
If you’re worried about finishing last–don’t. There are always people who will walk the whole thing. If you run just a quarter of the race, it’ll be enough not to finish last. Even if you are last it doesn’t matter. People will cheer you on all the same. Trust me. They do. Plus, it doesn’t matter where you finish as long as you achieve your goal for that race, unless your goal was not to finish last and you did then–sorry 😉
Spectators and fellow runners are supportive of everyone in the event. You’ll have people cheer you on who don’t even know you. They don’t even care. They just want to help push you across the finish line. Where else do you get that kind of support from strangers? Heck, professional athletes don’t get that support all the time. Do you think LeBron James gets cheered by the crowd when he visits Chicago? Yeah, that’s a no. I can guarantee if you travel to a neighboring city, those people watching the race are rooting for you. It gets even better at big marathons. You have loud crowds across most of the 26.2 miles pushing you. That noise and positive energy really helps you move. I don’t know about the science behind it but there’s something to be said about the positive energy from a cheering crowd that pushes runners. It’s real to me as someone who’s experienced and benefited from it.
Do your co-workers cheer you on when you complete a task? Does your boss? What about neighbors? Are they patting you on the back after you get back from a 4-mile run around the city? I bet they aren’t. But fellow runners and spectators at a race will. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have random people approach me after races to congratulate me. They had no reason to do such a thing considering they don’t know me and I’m no elite. I was left with such a warm, positive feeling afterward.
Races are great places to make new friends and acquaintances. If people approach you or you approach people there’s an opportunity to develop a new relationship. You can have a new running buddy or learn about how to improve through that person. You may strike up a friendship that extends beyond running.
Oh. I should mention you get goodies at races. Usually, water, fruit, bagels and even energy bars are available to runners after the race and sometimes before. Plus, you get a shirt and sometimes a medal. You can show off that medal to friends if you’re so inclined. I know I always wear my Boston Marathon medal when I go out. OK, no I don’t. But I wish I could because I’m darn proud of finishing that race! Races that offer bags will often have coupons and other discounts from local businesses.
Hopefully, I’ve excited you about races. If you’re now looking to enter one, please check out my next blog post. It’ll give practical advice about what to do before and after a race.
Running With You,