To be a runner, it doesn’t take much, aside from the will to run and an ability to propel yourself in a generally forward direction. Many people run nearly every day of the week, sometimes repeating the same routes day in and day out, and they’re completely happy with their running. Others like to intermix different types of running into their weekly ritual – some long runs, some short, some fast, some slow, some trails, or some hills, for example – and they find the interplay between all these different types of runs helps to make them fast, strong, and injury-free.
Another way to mix-up your running is to base your training around a particular race. Running simply for the sake of running is great, and for many people, that’s where their love of running begins and ends. For many others, however, having a race scheduled on the calendar helps enliven their training a little bit more and brings about an additional layer of accountability and structure to their weekly running. It might be a little nerve-wracking to have a race looming on your schedule, but it doesn’t have to be!
Here are 9 reasons why you should take the plunge and sign-up for a race…
1. Will Help Invigorate Your Training.
If you feel like your fitness is plateauing or that you’re in a mental rut, having a race on the calendar might be just what you need. When you have a race forthcoming, you’ll find that you will probably train differently – with more purpose and intentionality – than you would otherwise. You may begin including different types of runs into your weekly program that you wouldn’t normally, depending on the type of race you’re doing, such as hills, tempo runs, trail runs, or long runs.
2. Is a Great Workout For Your Mental Game.
Training for and then subsequently running a race gives you plenty of opportunities to push yourself and get you out of your comfort zone. For instance, if you usually run four times a week, five miles each day, at nine minutes per mile, you may find that a new training program requires you to run more days each week, with longer runs, and on some days, at faster paces. It can be fairly unnerving mentally to tread into this unfamiliar territory – especially if you’re intimidated by longer runs or faster splits – yet it’s by branching out of our comfort zone that we become mentally stronger. Mental strength will be critical in the final minutes of a race when your system is taxed and you wonder how on earth you’ll be able to continue, so getting the chance to exercise your mental muscle in training is important.
3. Training With Friends or Family Can Be a Blast.
Who says you should train alone for a race? Get some buddies on board with you – some friends or family members, or even sign-up for a training group near you to make some new running buddies – and soon you’ll find the social aspect of training for a race becomes as fun as the actual training itself. Whoever said that training/racing isn’t fun certainly hasn’t trained with friends before.
4. Can Make a Race-cation Out of It.
Consider signing up for a race somewhere you don’t live and making a little mini-vacation out of it. Every major city or city metropolis has a race, and racing in a new locale will give you a great view of the destination in a way you wouldn’t get otherwise. If you do take a race-cation, however, be sure to do your race first and then your vacation second so you’re not totally wiped out come race day.
5. Do a World of Good By Fundraising For a Race.
Many races also offer charity fundraising options, so by training for and then completing the race, you are doing some sort of societal good. Running usually makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, and fundraising for a race that you’ve trained for will only heighten that feeling.
6. Think of a Race as a Celebratory Lap or as a Final Test.
In running, some people are more process-oriented – they thrive on the rigor and structure of training – and others are more product-oriented – they view the success and get their joy from the final product: what they accomplish on race day. Either way, registering for a race can bring a sense of finality and accomplishment after several weeks or months of training. If you’re more process-oriented, you could use race day as your victory lap, celebrating the many successes you’ve had during training and the challenges you had to overcome. If you’re more product-oriented, race day can be your final test to see how your fitness measures up after training for the big event. Regardless, races are fun and crossing that finish line will bring you a sense of accomplishment that’s indescribable.
7. Will Keep You Accountable When Your Motivation Might Be Lacking.
Having a race on the calendar is what gets many people out the door when the weather is inclement or when they feel like they’re “too busy” to exercise. You have to pay for virtually all races, and they’re typically non-refundable, so if you sign-up for a race and then don’t show up, you’re wasting your money – something most people don’t enjoy doing. Having a goal race can make all the difference between a workout that happened and one that didn’t.
8. Will Get a Greater Sense of Appreciation For Where You Live.
When you’re training for a race, chances are high that you’ll do most of your running near where you live or work. While you likely know the area pretty well already, you’ll find that discovering and exploring an area on foot yields a greater sense of appreciation and attention to detail than what you’d notice just from driving through it. Running through a neighborhood nearly every day will allow you to notice all of its beautiful attributes and peculiar idiosyncrasies, from the particulars about the trees and flowers down to the neighbors and their funny antics. Consider snapping some pics mid-run and using the hashtag #seenonmyrun to document your observations, too; you’ll probably be surprised what you stumble upon during your race training.
9. You Have Nothing To Lose!
Perhaps the most important reason to sign-up for a race is that you’ve got nothing to lose by doing so, except some money. Unless you are injured or otherwise unwell (and therefore unfit to race), training for a race – and then running it – is a win-win proposition. You can train with friends and make some new ones along the way; you can get outside your comfort zone and find your as-yet undiscovered mental and physical strength; and minimally, you’ll get a deeper, more profound appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you every day that you don’t necessarily notice when you’re commuting. Very few people have ever truly regretted completing a race, and I doubt that (medical issues notwithstanding) you will be the first.
With so many races available worldwide, it’s no wonder that more and more people have been flocking to the starting line at distances from less-than-a-mile on the track up to 100 miles+ on the trails in virtually all corners of the earth. If you’re waffling about registering for a race, stop! You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot of great stuff to gain, including but not limited to increased mental and physical strength, joy, and a surge in motivation and accountability.