It’s really no secret that I love races. Every few months I get bitten by the racing bug and scour coolrunning.com to find upcoming races in my area, or interesting-sounding races in a town or state I haven’t run in yet (it’s my goal to run a race in every state, as well as in every town in Massachusetts). I regularly sign up for several races in any given month… sometimes two in the same weekend, and once even two on the same day. This registration free-for-all can sometimes lead to the dreaded DNS, but it hasn’t stopped me yet.
Last year, when I first really started running, races were what kept me going. Especially early on when I didn’t love running for running’s sake, races were the only enjoyable part of the whole thing for me… especially when finisher’s medals were involved. I loved pinning on a bib and soaking in the atmosphere, even though I knew there was no chance I’d ever win, or even place in my age group.
Crossing the finish line always gave me a huge sense of accomplishment that kept me wanting more, but unfortunately not enough to keep me motivated to run on my own. Sure, I’d get out for a 2-mile jaunt around the pond with Colin every now and then, but I didn’t have a set training schedule, or even a vague one. I ran when I felt like it – always easy runs, with maybe a fartlek or two thrown in if I were feeling adventurous – but I mostly treated my races as my “training.” I figured if I kept running 5Ks, the distance would get easier and I’d naturally get faster. (It didn’t help that I nabbed two significant PRs in a row without running at all between races!)
Lately, thanks to my running club, my training has gotten more regimented with speed workouts on Tuesdays and 3-ish miles on Thursdays. I usually try to get out for a run on the weekends… if not a race, then anything just to get out there. Then last week I completed my first long run and I finally feel like I have a somewhat legitimate training schedule. You know, minus the cross-training that I struggle with so much. After feeling all proud that I finally did a long run, I was gushing to Drew about how I couldn’t wait to try an extra half-mile this weekend when he looked at me with a raised eyebrow and said “Don’t you have that 5K in Maine this weekend?” Oh, right. Next weekend then. “Um, isn’t there a 5K in Providence that weekend?” Hmph. All of a sudden races are getting in the way of my training, instead of being my training!
My hectic racing schedule became even more of an issue last night, after the Shammies’ speed workout. Steve had calculated my interval times based on my current 5K pace, and suggested that I start treating Thursday runs as tempo runs (which they’re supposed to be; I just run them as best I can and try to keep up with everyone else). For the next 6 weeks, the usual 3- or 5-mile tempo runs will be replaced with 2-ish-mile fun runs, and Steve launched into how I could approach them as training races to work on getting my goal times. When I mentioned that I have races scheduled for the next few weekends in a row, he sort of frowned and said I should probably take it easy with the races so that I don’t injure myself, and then tried to talk out how I could juggle the Thursday races with my other plans and just seemed generally disapproving of how everything would balance. Oops.
(One thing Steve probably doesn’t realize is that I don’t really race when I run races… I sort of treat them the same way I treat all my other runs – just go at a pace I can handle and try to finish strong if possible. If I were going all out at each race I could see being worried about injury, but otherwise they’re just normal runs for me, albeit with a lot more people around. I’m starting to realize this probably isn’t the best way to think about races, at least not all of them.)
All this really got me thinking, though. I run a lot of races. And, apart from the 10K and half marathon I’m starting to train for, they’re all 5Ks that I’m not really training for, at least not specifically. I decided that it’s time for a change of tactics: I’m going to tone down the racing so I can focus on training and doing things properly. I’m thinking no more than one race a month, unless there’s a really special situation. Hopefully this will cut down on my DNS count, and it will definitely save me some money!
It does sadly mean no more giddy registration free-for-alls (I really enjoyed those! just not the paying for them part), and since I’m already signed up for races through the end of October, I won’t be signing up for much for the rest of the year, if anything. It will also make my goal of racing in so many different places a little more difficult, unfortunately. Maybe I’ll make this change temporarily, while I’m trying to get my mileage and endurance up for longer races, and then play around with what works. I suppose we’ll see how this plan goes!
Do you like racing a lot, or do you prefer to focus on training for a few races?