January 24, 2014

The Pressure to Race

This post is probably a bit heavy for a Friday but I've been thinking about this topic for a while.  And on the heels of completing Dopey Challenge, it's most certainly applicable.  Just about any conversation I've had with another runner since Sunday, January 12th has revolved around my next race, or another race to consider, or when to run another marathon.  "When should I attempt another marathon PR?"  "Do I want to train for another fall marathon meaning lots of lonely hot runs in the summer?"  "Maybe I'll run in Europe this year…"

Last night, I finally had a pep talk with myself and told myself to slow down.  It's easy to get caught up in the race hype, particularly when there are so many fantastic races out there.  I'm pretty sure I couldn't hit them all in my lifetime even if I ran a new race every week!  And then there's the social media presence of races and runners on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Every week there are new race recaps, registrations, bib photos and the like.  I have certainly found myself wishing I was at a certain event now and again.  It's easy to find yourself feeling pressed to race, and race often when everyone else is doing it.

Recently I contemplated running a local race (the Virginia is for Lovers 14k) in February.  And not for any specific reason but I felt like I needed to have something on the calendar for February.  It so happens that I had a fabulous time at this race last year when my friend Krissy kindly acted as my pace car.  After going back and forth about registering, I realized I wasn't signing up for this race because it would help me en route to any goals or because I wanted to experience it as a new race, but I was signing up for it "just because."  And it hit me that there may be times when that's an ok reason to race, but I'm not in that place right now.

In 2013 I ran 19 races and loved all (ok, most) of my experiences.  But there were definitely races (notably Wine and Dine just 2 weeks after Marine Corps) that weren't the best idea.  Both my heart and legs simply were not in my Wine and Dine half this year.  And it makes me a little sad to admit that I had a less than stellar time at a race in Disney World through no fault of anyone other than my own.  It taught me a HUGE lesson that I need to be more thoughtful about the events I choose and make sure they're a good fit for my running goals and personal schedule.

As you all know from my post on the new year, one of my goals for 2014 is balance.  Balance not only in terms of the types of races I run, but in the way I spend my time.  I've been very focused on that this month and I've found myself feeling pretty content.  I rediscovered my KitchenAid mixer and that has been a glorious (and coincidentally, tasty) reunion.  I'm working on diversifying my workouts - hello Speedo, swim cap and goggles!  And just because I'm not running a half marathon once a month (remember that goal from last year?) or checking out every new race in the area doesn't make me a bad runner.  It just makes me a balanced one for picking the right races for me…and for finding other hobbies that make me happy and who I am.

So on a lighter note for all my running buddies trying to convince me to check out a race, you're going to have to work harder to convince me.  Consider me your date playing hard to get!

Do you ever find yourself feeling pressure to race?
{Christine}

58 comments:

  1. I've often had the same thoughts and appreceiate your honesty. I've been wrestling with some of the same feelings lately as I make a decision for the fall. This is a great reminder that we all need balance and that looks different for all of us. We have to remember that we must do what's best for us! In the end it will make us happier and healthier! :)
    Happy weekend!
    Karen @karenlovestorun

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    1. Yes, great point that each person's balance looks different. Glad to know I'm not alone!

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  2. Yes! I lobbied hard to get into the Asheville Half Marathon. I got in, but then....... It's a week before what is supposed to be my PR half marathon. It will be hilly. And Asheville in mid-March is going to be butt-numbingly cold. What was I thinking? So now I am registered for a race that I am not so much looking forward to, and I'm doing it solo. I will need to pace myself better as other opportunities come up!

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    1. I've heard that's a beautiful race! So maybe you can focus on the surroundings and "zone out"...and even though I sugges that I know that would be hard for me to do in a race! :)

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  3. Love this honest post! Thanks for sharing. I am definitely scaling back this year so that I can enjoy (and savor!) just a few new races instead of trying to hit all the ones that I possibly can!

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    1. Exactly - I'm hoping to do the same...really savor the racing experience!

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  4. I love this post and am in the same place mentally. I had a rough half at Tink for a variety of reasons and I'm kind of dreading GSC now, which makes me sad. I met my goal of one race a month last year and just qualified for Half Fanatics, but I think I need a break from the pressure of racing, especially long distance racing. I already have a few races on my calendar (and paid for!) but I am not sure that I'm going to add any more anytime soon. The hard thing is that for runDisney you have to sign up so early and it's hard to tell how I'll be feeling when Wine & Dine rolls around again in 10 months! Thanks for a thought-provoking post that crystallized what I've been feeling!

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    1. Thank you April! My best advice from my own burnout experience....take time off and find yourself wanting to run again. GSC will be a fantastic event!

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  5. What a great post! After Dopey I found myself asking many self-reflection questions. My questions didn't necessarily revolve around the amount of races, but the speed of racing. Last year I felt total pressure to run faster and faster to the point that was all I focused on. So many fun and beautiful races were wasted on monitoring my watch and not my fun. When running my marathon in Nov, I didn't have a good time. It was sad and I worried about Dopey around the corner. It is hard not to run "my best", but at the Dopey, I forced myself to have fun only. No clock watching. This made me LOVE the marathon and really, really take in the scenery I love so much. This year I will only sign up for marathons where time is not on my mind, but the scenery and friends. I have to admit that shorter races will probably be for a balance of fun and speed, but marathons are for fun. And no more "just because" signing up....or "post race high" signing up - LOL.

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    1. Thank you Amy Rose from Pensacola! :) That's a great point on racing speed...I am definitely guilty of getting caught up in trying to PR every stinkin race! I'm glad you had a great Dopey experience!

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  6. I know we've talked about this, but this is so true, there are just so many races and so little time (and money!) that it's overwhelming! Not to mention probably not good for our bodies!

    I just counted I ran 10 races last year and I felt that was a good number for me, it wasn't too many that I felt burnt out, but at the same time it always kept me working towards something - I personally find that if I don't have a race in sight I get a little lazy so I like to have at least something on my calendar to work towards!

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    1. I totally get needing to have a race on the schedule for motivation...I am good about working out but I don't know if I would keep up running. We'll see what happens after Shamrock :)

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  7. Last year you wrote a post that really resonated with me. It was "Why i'm not Running Princess" or something like that. You said you had other things on your life list to do ( maybe visit Europe). I've remembered that post and it made me think that my life does not revolve around racing, but I include running/racing in my life because of the experience. I ran way more races in 2013 than I probably would any other year, but that is only because I was/am working up to a bigger accomplishment this year! After this spring I will take it easy too and only sign up for races that I "really" want to do, not because I need the practice, but because I want to be there. Does that make sense? -M

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    1. That absolutely makes sense! We have a very similar approach this year. Last year I did a lot of races "just because" and they were great, but I want to be more thoughtful this year.

      And you're right, here's that post: http://www.werundisney.com/2013/06/why-ive-decided-not-to-run-glass.html. And I'm still hoping for a fall Europe trip :)

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  8. Love this post! It is really true - I haven't done a ton of races since I started running, and I think that is part of the reason I don't get burned out. I pick the ones that look either the most fun, or ones that line up in a good timeline for when I'm ready to try and PR. I am glad you are actively trying to incorporate a good balance like this into your life, it's definitely a fantastic goal! :0)

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    1. Thanks Lauren. Especially since I'm a relatively new runner, I always find myself with lots of goals and generally races are the way to get there which can be a conflict of interest on my free time and personal life!

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  9. Love this! I struggle with saying no to races especially if I know friends are running them. I've made races fit when they really shouldn't have fit. Balance is good, it's a tricky thing for me to find though. I need to remember this when I'm feeling the urge to sign up for a race "just because".

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    1. Me too Suzanne - hard to say no when I have buddies running!

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  10. <3 yes. I am going through something similar. Last year, I feel like I missed out on so much because of injury and while I want to do all of the races, after marathon weekend, I am trying to take it slow. And I understand when people have asked or when you find pressure on social media even though it might not be direct pressure :-) -- since you are in the VA, maybe we can meet up for a race somewhere in the middle for us and just have a nice relaxing stroll! hehe happy running!

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    1. I would love that Becca! I'm looking at a few DC races later this year so maybe I'll be in your neck of the woods.

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  11. I have felt that way a little bit and I know that's why it feels weird that I don't have anything on my calendar for the rest of the year. It's very easy to get caught up in the hoopla but I have to focus on me now. My last training routine wasn't fun at all because of my injury, and I just need to step away from running for a little bit.

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    1. I think wanting/needing to take a break is perfectly healthy. And knowing and doing that can be two totally different things! Rock on girl!

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  12. This was a fantastic post. I think that it is super easy to get caught up in the racing aspect of running, that we lose sight of why we started running in the first place. Not to mention - it is asking for burn out. Thankfully, most of the races I even look at mean a long drive (or flight), which allows me to be much more selective. However, my bucket list just keeps growing! Good for you on focusing on other areas of your life - I can't wait to see what's in store!!!

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    1. Thanks Megan. Yes I was in burn out central a few times last year and it sucked! Not in 2014...

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  13. Right now, I'm trying to run races that I enjoy. I admit that I have two on my calendar I'm unsure about, but I'm doing them for the camaraderie, not the race itself. I find myself wanting to register for a local half marathon because it's part of a "challenge." But I ran it before and didn't enjoy it. So who cares about a stupid challenge. Why do something I don't want to just for an extra medal? I've definitely risked burnout before and I'm doing my best to avoid it again, so I think being picky is smart!

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    1. I think running races to see buddies is a great reason to race! And yes, good call on the challenge...those are SO easy to get talked into especially with an incentive like a medal. Sometimes that medal isn't worth the frustration and burn out that they might include to get there.

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  14. Are you inside my head? Really? I think a big part of running is the addiction side of it. I'm forcing myself to take the next three months off to let injuries heal and get back to strength training. As awful as it was, just four days after the WDW Half, I was already missing the pavement. Now here we are, almost two weeks later, and I'm ready to crawl out of my skin. I keep trying to stay focused on making the rest of me better, inside and out, so when I do get back to logging the miles, I'll have a whole new appreciation for it. I think that's why it's so great you're taking a break from all the "competition". I wouldn't be surprised if 3-4 months from now, you're posting about the greatest run you've had in your life. Even if it's no more than a mile. :) Keep on takin'' care o'you sistah! :)

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    1. Hehe maybe :) What's funny is I loved my break after Dopey but that was also self-imposed and not due to an injury. We'll see what this year holds. Right now, I'm pretty happy with my schedule.

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  15. Great post Christine! I decided this year I wasn't going to do any races that didn't fit with the training schedule I was following - I did that a few times last year and it just didn't end well. Glad to see I'm not the only one thinking this way!

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    1. Smart thinking Kristen. I plan to take a similar approach to my racing schedule - make sure they fit into training (and life) schedule!

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  16. Thanks for being so open and honest, Christine! I struggle with this...mostly because I want to run every Disney race their is! :0) Just means I get to enjoy the time I'm in Disney even more!

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    1. I am totally with you Karen! Saying no to Glass Slipper was definitely a challenge and there have been many moments when I wished I had registered. But in the end, I know I made the best decision for me.

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  17. Yes, Yes, Yes to everything you just said!...what a great post

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  18. Last year, I was really upset about not being able to run the Dopey Challenge. I already had MCM marathon scheduled and knew that would likely take a lot out of me. I thought I would have trouble being ready for the challenge of running 48+ miles in a weekend. Now, looking back it was the best decision I made all year. I was wiped out after MCM and took off 8 weeks so that I could get my body back to normal. I don't know what I would have done had I registered for Dopey. All I can say is that it is really easy to get caught up in the excitement of racing and having a blog puts a little added pressure on running all the races. This year, I went into 2014 with only a couple of events scheduled (Wine and Dine + Ragnar SoCal). This was completely different from 2013. While I am slowly adding back in more races to my calendar, it is because it is a local event, a race for a cause or community I am involved in, or because I want to train properly for a PR. And, marathon #2 is still tbd...maybe this year, maybe not and that is 100% okay with me.

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    1. I never knew you wanted to do Dopey! I think a break after a race like a marathon is really important. And especially after your fall, you probably needed that! And yes totally agree that the blog can add a bit more pressure at times.

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  19. This is such a great post, Christine! Although I'm striving to run a couple more races this year (I ran 12 last year, hoping for 14 this year), most of them will be smaller local races that cost pennies compared to the larger races with runDisney. Still, I think this post is a great reminder about the need to focus on what's most important. Is it essential that we try to be at every single runDisney race for the sake of avoiding jealousy (which I know I faced when I followed along on Twitter and Facebook for Wine and Dine), or is it more important that we pick and choose which races we want to participate in in order to preserve the magical factor of those larger races? Although its often a hard realization, the answer should be the later, even though many of us get wrapped up in the first choice.

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    1. Thanks Kathryn! Totally agree on the financial thing...in 2013 I did WDW Half, Princess, Dumbo and Wine and Dine...and then Dopey. It was crazy! All of my time, money and vacation days went to Disney races. I had a blast but it was a big wake up call to try to diversify a bit both in terms of racing and how I'm spending my precious vacation time.

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  20. Loved this, Christine, and I've been in a similar frame of mind, especially about destination races that can be VERY exhausting beyond just the running! Great post!

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    1. Thanks Jen! And yes, on the destination race thing - they can zap you for sure...on every front!

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  21. Love this! I went through a phase like this, too. I think it's totally normal especially after you had two huge races -- MCM and Dopey.

    Luckily (?) I lost my job and my race budget became a lot smaller so I have to be really choosy about which races I do now. But it's still hard. I hate when I have good intentions to train well and really want to run the race, but then it goes horribly! It almost feels like a waste or money and a training cycle. Sometimes it's just better to run and forget about racing and all the other technical stuff!

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    1. Being choosy is great! That's my plan for this year. I spent SO much time and money on runDisney last year, that I need a bit of a change.

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  22. Great post, Christine. I actually need to have a race or two on the calendar because I know myself too well...if I don't have something I'm working toward, I'll find excuses not to run/train/eat healthy food/etc...and I don't want to go back to my old sedentary lifestyle.

    That said, after running a half and a full in the last few months, I don't have much desire to go run the shorter races...nor do I have the desire to become a half fanatic or a marathon maniac.

    As such, I have a goal this year to run four half marathons, two marathons (one down, one to go...Disney was the first), and the big 15k here in North Florida here in March. I'm not planning on running (literally and figuratively) from race to race just to get another bib, another medal, another tech shirt, etc. I'd rather be selective about what races to run, set some time/PR goals, and then enjoy the training and the races. I have some friends who have followed my story and have started running, and if any of them wants me to run a 5k with them, I will definitely do local races to support them.

    Right now, I have Half #1 next month (The Donna here in Jax), the 15k in March, and I'm hopeful that I'll get into Chicago via the lottery in October...if not, I might run it with a charity group. So I really just need to find three more half marathons...most likely I will run either two in the Spring and one in the Fall...or vice versa.

    I do know I want to run the Disney Full again next January, and I'm thinking about Goofy...but I'm not completely sold on Goofy (or Dopey) just a few months after Chicago.

    At the end of it all, though, here's the deal: Run your own races. Make your own schedule. Cross train however you want. And do whatever you need to do to stay in love with the pavement. Don't let running or training for races become a chore...keep it the gift that it has been for you.

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    1. Thanks, Pete! I can totally understand the need to have a race on the calendar for motivation. And after really wanting to become a half fanatic and/or marathon maniac last year, I'm with you this year. I have zero desire to race every weekend to get some silly designation.

      Last year, I was totally going from race to race and it was exhausting and quite frankly, a drain on my time, money and psyche (at times).

      I'm reallllly tempted to throw my name into the lottery for Chicago, but I'm still on the fence a bit.

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  23. Oh...and I'm sorry to be so wordy.

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  24. i think i am learning how to say no! I "only" ran the marathon during WDW marathon after i figured out i would only be running the 10k at tink weekend, which is restraint for me! I really want to run quality races and be motivated for those few and for my performances at those few. Thanks for sharing some gutsy thoughts :)

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    1. Good for you Jillian! I'm learning too...apparently a lot more slowly! :)

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  25. I've seen a lot of similar posts from bloggers this week and I made the decision as well to lighten my race load this year. I want to focus on hitting some goals in the races I run and that means fewer races. You make the choice that works for you.
    Best wishes!

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    1. Sounds like a great plan, Sarah! Good luck with all of your races this year!

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  26. Sometimes I worry that I don't race enough or am way too slow, but then I try to remind myself that i am proud of what I am doing. I can be hard at times though.

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    1. As you should be! You've done some great things girl!

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  27. I don't feel any pressure to race, but I do feel hesitation... Because of the costs. They add up quickly! I love running and never go into a race thinking I have to get XX:XX time to be happy, but I know that everyone has different approaches. I think the best advice that I've heard/accepted is that run at your own pace - when signing up for the races and during the actual race.

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    1. You are stronger than me! I have said yes to races more times than I can count! And yes, the costs are huge, especially when a race isn't local.

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  28. I have had these same feelings! sometimes I feel the need to run a race just because its local and I should. I decided that I need to get back to why I started in the first place- for fun so I am choosing wisely this year. There are several races I'd like to run but for now I actually only have one (as in paid for) on the books.

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  29. Such a good thing to keep in mind! I've learned this the hard way too. Just because everyone else is running and talking about a certain race doesn't mean that I need to jump on the bandwagon too.

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  30. I know exactly what you mean! There are just SO many races and since I always have a good time running, it can be SO hard to say "no" (especially when it comes to Disney races, I've noticed, haha). It's tough to resist -- the feeling I get crossing a finish line, especially if I've achieved a time goal, conquered a new distance, etc., is addictive! And, like you said, with so many bloggers sharing all the intimate details of all these races all over the country, it's also hard not to get swept up in the excitement and feel pressure to hit that "registration" button!

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  31. I qualified for Half Fanatics at the end of 2013 - and every weekend my FB is filled with all sorts of cool races that I now want to do. So it is hard to keep focused on the goal of getting faster that I set for myself this year. I have a tendency toward ITBS and when I am in half training mode I get lazy about the strength training I should be doing. What is helping me stay on track is reminding myself that I want to run my first full at Disney next January - so I need to get my hips in shape and save my money!

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