What is it about races?

Hackney RefocusingMy girlfriend thinks I’m crazy.

“Why would you spend £50 to go and do a running race?” she asks.

“Give me £50 and I’ll time you over 10km” she says.

At the time I tend to agree with her. Then I scan through the Runners World website or just my email inbox and keep planning my races for the year to come.

I currently have 5 booked and paid for

  • Dash for the Splash – 25/02/18 – Completed
  • Adidas City Fulham – 18/03/18
  • Fuller’s Thames Towpath – 10 08/04/18
  • Hackney Half – 20/05/18
  • Virgin Westminster 10km- 15/07/18

And another 3 planned

  • Richmond Run Fest Half – 16/09/18
  • Ealing Half  – 30/09/18
  • Cabbage Patch 10 – 14/10/18

If I was to only run 8 races this year, that’s not exactly prolific. Some people race every weekend and even on weekdays!

So why do I book them? What is it about races that people can’t get enough of?


First of all, they give you motivation and focuses the mind. There’s no way I’m paying for a race and not getting my monies worth. I can trot around anywhere. Up and down the Thames, around Wimbledon Common or Richmond Park, but I want to challenge myself and for me, that measurement comes down to PBs (or PRs).

If I was building towards a particular race, then I might use races as a primer/warm up, but I tend to jump around from one race to the next gunning for PBs, or at least do myself justice.

It’s not ideal, but I tend to focus on my training for 6 weeks or so, do a race, hit my goal (hopefully) or close to it, then pat myself on the back and sit back and let it slide a little till my next upcoming race. Then it all starts again.

Come to think of it if I didn’t race, I think I would lose my impetus to train. I would still do it, but I think I would just struggle to strive to get better.

They keep you honest

It’s just you and the clock. The time trial (which is what they are to most runners) is also known as “The Race of Truth”. If you’ve been slacking off training, even a just little bit and you think you’re going to sneak this one. It will kick your arse and put you in your place. Then you have to refocus and stop kidding yourself.

the build-up

There’s research that shows that the anticipation of a holiday/vacation can bring more happiness than actually taking the holiday.

I feel like that about races. I still get excited and nervous about them. From struggling to sleep the night before and faffing around with my kit bag to planning my pre-race meal and breakfast. It also keeps me off the booze for the weekend.

They get you out the door

As I mentioned in my post on the Four Tendencies, I’m an upholder and struggle with inner expectations but am able to meet outer expectations. This manifests itself as not being able to go running on my own (very much). Congrats to all those solo 6 am runners and those for whom 10 miles is a recovery run, but damn I can’t do it. Group Military fitness at 8 am. No problem! Parkrun. I’m there! Hill session on a Thursday. Count me it!

I have to run on my own sometimes, and it’s the races that get me out the door. There’s definitely a fear element to it. Again, it’s about meeting outer expectations. Someone might ask me my time and then I’ll have to tell them that I wasn’t quite up to scratch.

You run faster

It’s impossible to recreate the race atmosphere. It’s pretty hard to get anywhere near how fast you will run on race day in your training. But when race day arrives and you are feeling good, those 9-minute miles drop to 8-minute miles and the 8-minute miles drop to 7. Who knew you were so fast!

They show how strong you are

Ealing Half 2017 MiddleThere’s been plenty of times in races where I’ve told myself that I’m spent and I’m going to have to slow down and my body is yelling at me to stop. I have never walked in a race (yet), but sometimes it’s ever so tempting. Just when you think you’re done, you take your mind somewhere else and you’re able to push through those last few miles. Remember what David Goggins said – “When you think you’re done, you’re only at 40% of your total potential” and he knows a little bit about suffering.

They show you what it takes

I ran the Shoreditch 10 km last year and was trying to get under 45 minutes. As I pumped in three 7 minutes miles and I thought my heart was going to burst out my chest, I knew what a 45 minutes 10km required. As I crossed the line on 45 minutes dead and suddenly stopped  as I thought I was going to puke, I knew what a 45 minutes 10km felt like.

A race shows you this. When I think about going faster, I think about how much harder I’m going to have to train or how I have to test myself physically and mentally again.

When I think about the how I’ve “broken down” in the Ealing Half the last 2 years, I think about the hills and that how having a little bit of form is not going to get me over them. Some dedicated and consistence hill training is what’s going to do that. See below.

Strava hillsI love races. The excitement, the challenge, the delight and sometimes the comprehension that you need to get better. Sometimes you have to put your toe on the line, give it your all and see what you have in you.

Happy racing!

What races have you got lined up this year? Leave a comment below.

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