As I watched friends begin their spring half marathon training this past weekend, I was hit by pangs of jealousy. I wanted to be out there with them, running my first long run of the spring season, getting excited for an upcoming race. But I've chosen not to do any distance races this spring. I'm only currently signed up for three races this year, two 5ks and one 8k, and I'm honestly on the fence about all but one of them, and the one I am sure about is the only one that I'm running with a friend.
Though I have been a big fan of racing in the past and regularly talked about how fun it is and how everyone should run races because racing is for everyone, regardless of pace, I've been starting to change my tune a bit. Deciding whether or not to race is a personal decision, and everyone needs to decide what is best for them.
I once loved races. They were fun and motivating and helped me track my progress, but I honestly haven't had fun at a race in a very long time. What was once motivating has become demoralizing. An experience that was once joyful and exhilarating has become horrible and anxiety ridden.
When I got sick the weekend of the F^3 half marathon in January, I was initially sad that I wouldn't be able to run the race that I had trained for all winter, but my sadness quickly turned to relief, because being sick gave me an out. It meant that I could skip the race without feeling guilty. It meant not being confronted with proof of how slow I've become.
The only race I truly enjoyed running last year was the Hot Chocolate 5k, and the fun part wasn't the race itself, but watching my friend Sarah finish her first ever 5k. I have a standing promise to all my friends and co-workers that if they ever decide they want to try running, I will run their first race with them. Sarah took me up on that offer in the fall and chose the Hot Chocolate 5k for her first race. On race day it didn't matter if we took walk breaks, it didn't matter what our finish time was, it was just a joy to run together and see a friend achieve a goal. We had fun walking, running, talking, and laughing.
Moving forward, I will think more carefully before signing up for races. I will consider not only if I have the time and energy to put in the proper training, but whether or not the race is going to be good for me and if it is something I really want to do. I want to walk into a race with the right mindset, feeling good about myself and my running. Chasing and achieving a goal is a great feeling, but there are more goals to work towards then those that include a finisher's medal.
Running races does not make you a runner. Running makes you a runner.