Running Notes: Why Race?

| March 30, 2010 | 12 Comments

Why race? Why wouldn’t I be happy with just running? To me, running is like studying for an exam. It lets me see how well I have responded to the training. It gives me more goals to achieve and provides milestones along the way to something larger. When I race, I know there are so many variables I cannot control – such as the weather or traffic getting to the start – but I can prepare for these factors and have trust in my training.

My first race this year was the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, held on Sunday, March 21 beginning and ending in Grant Park. This popular race is the largest 8k (4.96 miles) in the world and is known as the official kickoff to racing season in Chicago. I love the Shamrock Shuffle for so many reasons. It is well-organized and fun; and it is a flat, fast course perfect to achieve a personal record (PR). You run with athletes who are world-class champions and those who are new to the sport. At 9:00 a.m. that morning, I ran as smart and as best I could. I had a goal in mind and I achieved it. I ran the race in under 40 minutes – a new PR for me! Read a brief race report on my Dailymile profile.

I met with friends after the race to share stories of our individual experiences. Several of my friends achieved personal records or exceeded their goals. We were all very supportive of each other and congratulated our accomplishments with warm hugs and cold beers. Everyone was looking forward to their next “exam”. I enjoyed seeing the combination of competitive nature and camaraderie. It was fun to see what we all have next for our training.

That afternoon, I come home to shower and post my workout on Dailymile. And I also did something I’ve never done after a race. I cried. I don’t know why I did, but I cried! I t might be because when I set my mind and heart to achieve a goal, I thought of the possibilities of what’s to come. This race is a step towards more races on which I plan to do well. It is one race closer to the Chicago Marathon and qualifying for Boston.

Running a race is a great way to test your training, have fun with family, and enjoy some friendly competition with friends. Plus, you get great shirts and goody bags! We are fortunate to live in a large city that hosts so many races every weekend during the next several months. I encourage you to check Web sites such as Active, CARA, and Chicago Events to find a race in the Chicagoland area at nearly any distance to fit your schedule.

Go ahead and test yourself. You might be surprised and get totally hooked on running races. Or you might surprise yourself by crying tears of joy after knowing you did the best you could.

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Category: Featured, Health & Fitness

About the Author ()

Chanthana Tsai is an endurance athlete currently training for local half marathons, 10-mile road races, the San Francisco Half Marathon, and the Chicago Marathon (where she hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon). Follow her on Twitter @chanthana or provide her motivation on Dailymile

Comments (12)

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  1. Ed S, says:

    Nice post CT! I was thinking about races yesterday (while running of course) and for me it comes down to this. I like racing but I think finishing races better. BTW I still get choked up thinking about that first marathon. Still can’t believe I did it.

  2. Joe says:

    Great Article Chanthana! Probably one of the best analogies for training and races is studying and taking the exam. Congrats again on your PR at the Shuffle!

  3. Josh Coop says:

    You go grrrrrl! 😀

  4. SCL says:

    Thanks for writing on the topic.

    For me, races are the huge motivating factor in exercising at all. If no race on the horizon, I find it hard to motivate myself to train.

    While a great race is amazing, especially when a PR is involved, there are so many things that can go wrong on race day. In the end, I get as much satisfaction in celebrating the path to the race (all the training, preparation, sacrifices, logistics, etc) than whether I meet an artificial goal or not.

    I agree with what you said, the “I did the best I can” is what resonates to me, and not if I get the result I want. I’ve seen so many people get caught up in a disappointing result, rather than celebrating the path and the journey.

  5. Chanthana says:

    You are so right! So many things can go wrong (and have gone wrong)on race day. I normally set a couple of goals. There is a primary goal, which is normally to PR (ha!). And I have secondary goals, which are normally just to finish or I’ll adjust my goal time.

    Thank you for the reminder to enjoy the journey. We often get too caught up in the end goal and forget why we started running in the first place.

    I appreciate you posting a comment, S. Good luck with your training & races!

  6. Sarah says:

    I can totally relate to the unexpected tears at the end of a race (for me, it has happened twice, after my first full marathon, and my most recent killer PR at the National Half Marathon). When you have spent months training for something as grueling as a marathon, there are so many emotions that are released when you finish it, a sense of accomplishment, a sense that you have completed something so much bigger than you ever thought possible. It humbles you and motivates you and gives you the courage to strive for even loftier goals.

    • Chanthana says:

      “It humbles you…” – So true! You feel a range of emotions when you go beyond that comfort zone. Sarah, reading about your monster PR brings a huge smile to my face! I also can’t help but to get a big lump in my throat. I feed off people’s emotions when they accomplishment such huge achievements. Thank you for posting your comment, Sarah. {big hugs}

  7. Desiree Koh says:

    When I PR’d after the Melbourne Marathon last year, I didn’t cry (although it would be quite normal for me to). Not to sound cocky, but when I started training last year, I had a plan. I knew I wanted to PR. But, I didn’t want to put the weight of expectations on myself, so I didn’t allow myself to dictate by how much. I just wanted to run the best marathon I ever had.

    So after nine months of disciplined training, adding a new component of regular and focused resistance and strength training to the routine and continue to enjoy my real loves of softball and tennis, I PR’d 37 minutes faster than I’d ever run before (4:23). I guess I wasn’t overwhelmed because at the start line, I knew I was going to do good. I trained hard and I could feel it. I had also gotten to a point where I was acutely in tune with knowing how my body and mind felt throughout the entire race. I knew I had it in the PR bag by the 22nd mile or so. I didn’t expect 37 minutes quicker, but like I always say – the race is just icing on the cake.

    I had already PR’d at the start line, simply by being in the best shape and state of mind I’ve ever been in before a marathon.

    So, instead of crying at the finish, I chugged a liter of beer in eight minutes.

  8. Tara says:

    I like that analogy too Chanthana!
    I do have to say- Because the Shamrock is so large – unless you are really in the right starting coral- it’s a hard race to PR in so way to go to you and all others with a PR!
    When I PRed with Indiana- i just wanted under 4 hours so the 3:47 should have made me cry- BUT instead I just was disappointed that i couldn’t do it 6 minutes faster to qualify for Boston… I think it’s more shameful to NOT have those tears of joy when we PR and have disappointment in its place.

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