Running vs. Racing

17 Jun
If this makes you nervous, I suggest you find a smaller race.

If this makes you nervous, I suggest you find a smaller race.

This year I participated in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, a series of races that take place around the country, including New York City. I forgot I’d signed up for it until I saw the reminder notice in my inbox. Crap! My knee has still been giving me a little trouble, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it. I talked my friend/co-worker Willa into doing it with me, mostly because I needed someone there who’d be able to identify the body if I fell over on the course.

When I began my weight-loss journey, running was the one exercise that I latched on to. I surprised myself with my enthusiasm for it because I’m a self-confessed couch potato. But it spoke to my other inclinations, like thriftiness, speed and convenience.

That’s running.

Racing is an entirely different animal. I won’t say I hate racing because I do enjoy the challenge. I will say that when deciding to race, you need to choose wisely.

Racing involves registration, registration fees, meeting up at a specific time (which is usually early in the morning) and, worst of all, running with a group of people like a pack of animals.

The Corporate Challenge is no different. Thousands of people from corporations across the city participate. The race was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. I didn’t get to the starting line until 7:40 on a humid June evening. I was not happy. While I was slowly making my way to the starting line, I thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t be doing it. Here are a few things you should consider before deciding to do a race.

1. Crowds suck. If you don’t like the feeling of being herded like cattle, don’t register for a big race. A race’s website should tell you how many participants are involved. The Corporate Challenge in New York was so large it was held over two nights to accommodate the 30,000 runners participating. You read that right: 30,000 over two balmy nights. In Central Park. For a 5K. There was a lot of funk going on.

2. Training can be a pain. If you’ve never done any type of race, you’re going to have to train and stretch. Racing is different from running in that the element of competition becomes a factor. I’m not a very competitive person. I don’t like to lose, but I’m indifferent about winning. However, there is a switch that’s flicked once you cross the starting line that pushes you to go a little faster and try a little harder than you would were you just out for your morning jaunt. That speed will test your endurance and stamina. If you haven’t trained, you’ll be puking along the way. And nobody wants to be that person.

3. Wishful thinkers are very slow. Everyone has ideas of what they look like and what they are able to do. Often these ideas don’t mesh with reality. Big races like the Corporate Challenge invite people from all fitness levels to participate. The desk jockey who ran a 4-minute mile in high school probably thinks he’s still got it. He’s also the jerk who registered for the fast heat and will probably get run over and cussed out by the pros.

4. Come rain or come shine. The week of the race, the weather had been really funky. It rained off and on a lot; it even rained the morning of the race. There was still a chance for more droplets to fall during the race. But the Corporate Challenge site said the event generally goes on despite weather concerns. Basically, forget your ‘do and your need to stay reasonably dry. If you can’t handle unpredictable weather, keep an eye on the forecast. Getting caught in the rain on a race is the pits.

The beast had taken over when the race was done. And I can't take a selfie when I'm out of breath, obvs.

The beast had taken over when the race was done. And I can’t take a selfie when I’m out of breath, obvs.

Every time I do a race, I have to talk myself into it. I have to convince myself that  it will be good to commune with people like myself who enjoy the fresh air and freedom that running allows us. Racing tests you in ways that running won’t because competition is a motivator. And in the end, you’ve completed a challenge. The goal of any race is to finish. Sure, you’ll finish after you’ve mowed down people who are moseying on by, but you’ve done it.

Do you plan on competing in any races this year? How do you cope with the crowds?

top photo credit: Derek K. Miller via photopin cc

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One Response to “Running vs. Racing”

  1. therfpscribe June 17, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    I like the crowds in big races! My first ever was the Paris Marathon and there were 41000+ of us at the starting line. The costumes were amazing, the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd infectious, and it felt like a party. I have done smaller races since and while fun too, it’s just not the same.

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