Why do we run in these races? Is it for the SWAG bag? Of course. The finishers medal? Those don’t hurt. The downstep race photos? Not so much.
Signing up for a race helps us set goals, gives us something for which to train. After you click that “Register” button there is a specific date on the calendar on which you intend to do something pretty hard. Not only that, we are going to be doing something hard along with hundreds, maybe thousands, of friends we’ve never met. And you paid to do it. How crazy is that? But there is something special to that camaraderie experienced running through closed streets reserved special for you.
The spirit lifting cheers are the road racers equivalent to birdsong: music to our ears. Was that your 5th grade teacher you just ran past? No idea. But you let that thought stir around your brain and distract you for a few more minutes. What was the name of that person you had a crush on but couldn’t get the courage to tell? Oh gosh, that’s a big hill! Time to focus.
Races are opportunities to test the limits of your character. In distances both long and short there are plenty of chances to ease off the pace, to breathe a little easier, to succumb to the discomfort experienced in strenuous physical exertion. What you learn about yourself through those moments stays with you for much longer than you’d like to think. You begin to reorient your perspective on life through the lens of those moments of trial and triumph.
You can also do things in a race you would dare in any other public venue. I mean, where else is it appropriate to enter an arena filled with other self-respecting humans dripping in sweat, fairly certain that you’ve spit all over your shirt one mile before, and is that blood coming through your shirt from your nipples? And then you get high-fives from total strangers after which you exchange battle stories like the warrior heros you are. Taller tales than any fisherperson dare tell.
You don your medal at brunch with friends and family. That affirmation feels good. You set yourself a goal. Maybe you crushed that goal. Maybe you left the event expecting more. But either way there’s an undeniable sense of fulfillment. You told the world with your race registration that you were going to do something and, gosh darn it, you did it!
So why do you run in these races? That’s obvious. You do it because they are awesome. You do it because you are awesome.
A better question might be: when is the next race?