The Joy of Racing
Some dedicated runners never compete. Others scan upcoming events to find the perfect race. But most runners sign up for a few races each year because of tradition. They always do that particular race. Or they sign up to support a favorite cause. Runners choose an “away” race in a desirable spot so they can travel, explore a new place, and perhaps take advantage of low altitude and runner-friendly weather.
By the time I ran my first race, a 10k sponsored by the Fort Collins Running Club at City Park in For Collins, I’d been putting in a solid one-mile training run most every morning for five years. That first race was so long ago that I no longer remember why I decided to do it. But I remember well the sense of elation I felt afterwards. I was flying high!
As a 40-year-old female participating in a race, I was a little bit unusual back in the mid-70s. Unusual enough that I had little competition and did well enough that I was inspired to enter another race.
Over the years since then, I haven’t kept track of how many races I’ve run. I’d estimate the number as between 350 and 400—all of them fun, even the Duke City Half Marathon in Albuquerque where I fell flat on the pavement at mile 11.5 and finished dripping blood from my elbow.
Yet, preparation to race is not why I run. I see competing as “the frosting on the cake,” an opportunity to confront a challenge and enjoy happy banter among friends and strangers before, during and after the event.
It’s the act of plunking one foot down in front of the other, the act of running, that I love most. It helps me get a good start on the day or wind down at the end of one. In winter I like foul weather that forces the body’s little aches/pains/glitches to take a back seat to surviving a run without freezing. Figuring out how to maintain an upright position while running on icy roads demands some serious concentration.
I appreciate the cool quiet of the early morning on a summer day that will soon become a sizzler. Rain is so rare in Colorado that running wet is a treat. Running into the wind is only fun when the wind changes, you turn around, or when the run is finished.
When I run alone, paying little or no attention to pace, all sorts of ideas pop up—some fleeting and silly, others thoughts I’m convinced I would never have had without the freedom that a solitary run provides. Daydreaming and idle looking around—there’s no better time or place to do it than out on the road alone.
Would running be as satisfying without the structure that the knowledge of an upcoming race provides? Every runner will have their own answer to that question. For me, the answer is “yes.” There is great joy in the challenge and camaraderie of the race, but I cannot survive by only chasing the frosting. I need a whole lot of plain cake fancied up by the addition of an occasional exciting topping.