Why I Don’t (Really) Race

It seems that most running bloggers are always writing race recaps or posting their race schedules. Even outside of the blogging world, it seems like all of my running friends are filling their calendars and scheduling races (almost) every weekend. It’s nearly impossible to scroll through my Newsfeed on Facebook or Instagram without seeing someone celebrating that weekend’s accomplishments.

This has never been me.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against racing (and I do race). But I have never been one to pack my schedule full of races just for the sake of racing. Injury notwithstanding, since I returned to running in 2011 (5 years ago) I have run a total of 10 races (1 x 5k, 1 x 8k, 2 x 10k, 2x 10 mile, 2x half marathon, and 5x marathon). For this reason, I don’t have clear PRs in most distances reflective of my abilities (for example, my fastest 5k was during an 8k). For a while this made me feel like I wasn’t a “real” runner. It made me feel like I was missing out.

But if I’m perfectly honest, this is because *gasp* I don’t always find racing fun.

As I’ve mentioned before, I struggle with anxiety issues. Back in high school when I ran cross country and track I would be sick for days before meets, counting down the days to a race like it was a death sentence. Sometimes it would get so bad it would make me physically sick. I know that this was because of the pressure that I would put on myself (not because of pressure that was externally put on me), but it still carries through and applies today. I have a hard time running a race “just for the experience” or God forbid, for “just for fun.” To me, racing has always been a competitive event – something that I do when I am well trained with a clear goal. Sometimes I wish that I could step away from this mentality, because I do love the feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment that follows running a race. I love the race experience. But I don’t love the nerves or the pressure. Maybe that’s why I gravitate toward the marathon — more training and less racing.

As I’ve grown as a runner, I have been able to let go (somewhat). My last marathon was following an injury and I did (better) at throwing all expectations out the window. At the very least, I have learned how to better deal with these issues. Maybe it’s a matter of just forcing myself to face my fears and to confront what scares me. Maybe I need to learn to let go and have fun.

Does anyone else feel this way? Do you prefer training or racing? How do you deal with pre-race jitters?