One of the top questions I’m asked by family and friends (aside from, “Did you eat all the chocolate yourself?” and “Do you really think that’s an appropriate thing to blog about?”) is “What’s your next race?”
I recently saw some social media post from Eventbrite where they were asking runners about their upcoming races and what they liked best about racing and if they would ever consider designing their own race.
[Answer to the last two questions: What I like best is being done and eating free food at the finish line. And any race I design is going to be rigged so that I win everything. Duh.]
But regarding that upcoming race thing, I’m in a weird place. For almost 10 years, I’ve run two marathons a year. I would pick them out at the end of the calendar year, target them, train for them and knock them out. But something odd and more than a little scary happened to me a couple of years ago.
I got tired of racing.
I thought maybe it was just marathons. Maybe 15 is too many in too short a time and I was burned out. So I tried running some half-marathons and 5Ks.
Nope. Didn’t feel like running those either.
What I realized is that while I loved training for the races (spending three hours with friends running in the hot sun on a Saturday is my idea of fun), I didn’t want the pressure of “racing” them. It was sucking all the fun out of running.
So I did what my friend and sole sister Christie has been encouraging me to do for years. I started racing without a watch.
That’s a big deal for me. I’m a pace girl, meaning I don’t start fast and bank minutes. The way I run is to hit pace on every mile, steady and consistent. However, I am not a steady and consistent runner. Without my watch, I’m all over the board. That’s fine if you’re just out to have fun, but it can destroy your run if you’re trying to place. You zap your energy in the early miles when you feel strong, leaving nothing in the tank for the back end of the race.
However, I’m slowly learning there’s something to be said for running according to how you feel. I ran a 10-mile race last month, sans watch, and placed seventh female (okay, it was a small race, but still). My half-marathon PR was run without a watch. I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet with a marathon but I might this year.
Running without a watch frees me from the mild panic that sets in if I notice I’m not holding pace (“I’m falling behind. I can’t catch up,”) and the panic that sets in if I’m running really well (“There’s no way I can hold this pace.”). With no guidelines on my wrist, I just run. And—yay!—it’s kind of fun.
I’ve got a few “fun” races scheduled this year with loose goals.
RACE 13.1 – A Greensboro half-marathon this Sunday. It’s being run on greenway I’m familiar with, which I hope will help me reach a new PR – preferably under 1:36.
Cannonball Marathon – Running this for two reasons. One, I enjoy running a marathon where I can sleep in my own bed the night before. Two, I want to run at least one marathon this year to keep my Boston Qualifying time. Greensboro is always a hilly race but I’ve BQ’d here for the past 2-3 years with time to spare, so while I’m not looking to PR, I think I’ll be okay to qualify.
Doggettville 12-hour Ultra – This is a “What am I thinking?” race. I signed up for it yesterday, knowing full well it’s the weekend before my 24-hour ultra where I’m supposed to be aiming for 100 miles. However, this is more-or-less a big field party with friends (and run by the sweetest people in the world—seriously) and is probably the event I’m most looking forward to this year.
Hinson Lake 24-Hour Classic – What is this for me? Year four? Five? I’ve lost track. I’d like to get 100 miles but my mindset needs adjusting. I’m really, really, REALLY tired of running in circles on this one. Not sure this is the race where I’ll get my 100.
Crooked Road 24-Hour Ultra – A month after Hinson, this is a fantastic course where I would prefer to go for 100 miles. However, it’s after the time change. I lose a lot of mojo once the sun goes down, plus Crooked Road is historically FREEZING cold. Temps dip into the teens and twenties at night. If I go for 100 here, I’m going to have to call in reinforcements – friends to run with me and keep me motivated.
I’m debating throwing in a 5K somewhere as I’m still in pursuit of my “under 20 minutes” run. I feel the clock ticking on this one. If it hasn’t happened by now, I’m wondering if it’s in the cards for me? But I’m running strong so far this year so… maybe.
If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you’re familiar with most of these races, as I’ve run them before. Next year, I’m making some changes. New ultras, new races. It’s time to change things up and fall in love with running all over again.
No matter what my pace.