If I’m honest about my own running experiences, without a race booked into my calendar my training can only be described as lacking in consistency, missing in quality work and generally being a bit rubbish.
The beauty of a race to look forward to is that it gives you the necessary focus and drive to push on with your training and make serious fitness gains, no matter what your motivation was for entering in the first place.
Helping to provide consistency to your training is only one of the many reasons why you should try racing if you haven’t already. The satisfaction of finishing a race knowing you have given your all will far outweigh any runner’s buzz you’ve had from running on your own.
Chances are you will also meet some new friends and possible ‘rivals’ along the way. The icing on the cake (and there might actually be a cake) is that you’ll also be rewarded at the end with various goodies and plaudits for your efforts – normally some of which you can eat or drink!
Never raced before? It can be a little nerve-racking, so make sure you choose an event that is over a distance you’re already comfortable with, and if you are a bit self-conscious then go for a big, mass-participation city event where you can guarantee easy blending with the crowds if you wish.
Once you get a little more confident though, I highly recommend supporting some smaller local club organised races, as this is where you’ll experience the real characters and support of the running community.
I still remember the first race I ever did, the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon. The crowd support was awesome, the thrill of running with so many others was a great new experience and I found myself being able to run faster and harder than I ever thought possible.
That day I was ecstatic with my time and middle-of-the-pack finishing position, but little did I know that this was just the start of a wonderful journey that would involve me coming back to this race a number of times over the next 10 years – and winning it!
Racing has provided me with my most memorable running moments, but they haven’t all been good ones.
One thing you quickly learn once you do start toeing the line with any kind of frequency is that race performances don’t always go to plan.
Everyone has bad races – I’ve certainly had some real shockers – so don’t take it personally when it happens to you.
If there are lessons to be learned about your pacing or preparation then take them on board, but don’t dwell on them for too long, and move on.
Don’t forget, running is meant to be fun, so pick yourself up and go find that next challenge.