Enjoy the Journey

I just read an article in June’s issue of Runners’ World about some runners that do not like to race and how they keep motivated.  After reading the first few paragraphs, I realized I was holding my breath.  Had I found other people like me? Were there really other runners out there who disliked racing as much as I do, but still feel ok about calling themselves runners?

When I first started running, I thought I could  only call myself a runner if I kept racing.  I’ve tried to be in at least one race a year, just to keep that title of “runner.”  But maybe I don’t need to do that.  Maybe it’s ok to just….run.

I’m often asked to run 5Ks for local charities or even the friendly, “Hey, let’s run a road race next time I’m in town!”  As much as I love getting these requests, I also inwardly cringe each time I hear them.  It’s not that I don’t want to help out my local charity or that I don’t want to spend time with my friends, it’s just that I really, really don’t enjoy racing.

I get so nervous beforehand that I think I’m going to be sick. Which is silly, I know. I stay in the back of the pack and it’s not like I’m really competing with anyone but myself.  And yet….I always pick one person that I try to beat.  (And let me tell you, when the person you pick is old enough to be your mother and she kicks your ass in the race? It’s a very humbling experience.)

And then there’s the cost of the races.  If I want to help out a local charity or a large research foundation, then I’ll send them a check. I don’t need swag and I really don’t need to pay $35 to run 3.1 miles, since I run that most mornings right in my lovely town of Levant. It only costs me the price of getting up a half hour earlier than usual.   I didn’t have to sit through traffic to do it or attempt to find a parking place that costs an additional $10.

It’s true that when I run my daily 5Ks, I don’t get that feeling of comradery from all the other runners at the race, but if you know me then you know that I’m not usually one for that kind of thing anyway.  If I really wanted that, I could join a runners group or find someone in my area to run with.

Then there’s the motivation factor.  Admittedly, having signed up for races in the past certainly helped get me out the door on those cold, rainy mornings.  Even when I was training for my own half-marathon, I still got out the door and trained my butt off because I set a goal and wanted to complete it by a certain date.  But now that I’ve done that, I realize that just having a goal is good enough for me.  I actually *enjoy* running.  It’s never easy and often not fun, but there are so many moments that consist of pure joy for me. So when you add up all the good, it drastically outweighs the bad.  And typically, that’s all the motivation I need.

I’m not dissing anyone who likes to race or even those that think you should race to keep motivated.   To each her own.  Do what you need to do. But like the piece in Runners’ World said, don’t forget to “enjoy the journey.”   No matter if that journey takes you to a finish line or through your neighborhood.   Just do what makes you feel good.

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