It's OK to be a Runner and Not Race

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I posted this on Twitter this week and realized that I wanted to take this a little deeper. What was a passing thought quickly turned into an essay:

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It's OK to be a runner and not want to sign up for races.

As of right now, I have no real burning desire to run a marathon. I think marathons are amazing and people that finish them deserve accolades. And if you're an ultrarunner, you're my hero. But I have no burning desire to do so myself.

For one, it can be really expensive to pay all those race fees. Yes, they usually go to a good cause, but it can be expensive to budget for a small family. For another, I am not the most competitive person. I will compete with myself, and I'm sure the thrill of coming in first, second or third place would be phenomenal, but it just isn't me. The extra time on Saturdays that it took to train for my Half Marathon would be pretty brutal right now. But even though these are legitimate reasons, they seem like petty excuses in the bigger picture...

I want to run faster, I want to get stronger, I want to run with better form and I'm constantly researching ways to do so, but I don't feel like I need a race to prove it or to motivate me. I'm pretty strongly self-motivated most of the time, so I don't need a race to push me. And I don't need the ends to justify the means. I don't need a better race score to justify the time I'm putting into running better. Maybe I just want to run better. I want to stretch myself in my own way, not the competitive way.

I am a simple runner. I don't own any compression socks, nor do I regularly buy gel packs or fancy schmancy gear. I just have a pair of JC Penney running shoes and the road. It's not that I don't find value in that type of gear or that I'd never use them, I just prefer to do without them most of the time. I like to keep things simple. To just run and not think about it too much.

Everyone who becomes a runner seems to morph into a marathoner, doesn't it seem that way? But what if I don't want to? I just enjoy the thrill of the run, the distance and the experience of it. It doesn't make me any less of a runner that I don't have more medals hanging on my wall. I finished a Half Marathon once, and it was such a thrill to accomplish, but that's been enough for me. I think races are a great way to change your routine and set out to achieve new goals. I love the sound of thousands of feet on the pavement and the electric energy and camaraderie at races. But I don't think it's necessary to be considered a "real" runner only if you pound out race after race.

And I always want running to be fun, not a chore that I have to accomplish four days per week with cross-training every other day. I want to decide to take a 13 mile run one day even if it has nothing to do with a training schedule. And I want to decide to take just a 3-miler when the sun is setting, just because. And I want to bodybuild just a little and try out Barre and so many other fitness methods without worrying about how it will affect my running pace or training schedule. I already know that I have the discipline to follow a running plan, because I've done that before. I don't feel the need to prove that again and again to myself or anyone else.

I am a fitness blogger and I'd love to be a running coach alongside being a personal trainer. But I think that the fact that I've only finished a handful of 5ks and a Half Marathon shouldn't strip me of my clout. I have a genuine desire to be a better runner and I want to make better runners or just plain runners out of others, and that should be enough. I just plain want to help.

I just love running for running's sake.

I am a runner.
I am not really a racer.
And that's enough.

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