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Running Races is Stupid.

Posted Jun 24 2012 11:00am

As much as I love my friends, one of them said, “I am not going to pay to run when I can just do it for free! That just seems silly!”

Let’s be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this and probably not the first time you have heard this. It isn’t meant to be said by the person to be mean. They just don’t understand. It does seem silly at first glance to PAY your money to run when you can just go outside and run on your own, but there are so many reasons why you should be paying to run.

In my opinion, I can just as easily say, “Why would you PAY money to go see people pass a ball back and forth when I can just watch it on TV and why would I WANT to watch someone just throw a ball back and forth?!” Or “Why would you ever pay money to workout in a gym?” But I don’t say that because I understand why you would do these things. So this post is my attempt to help people understand why they should race.

ELEVEN. The road is yours.

Yes, you can debate that if you live in the ‘burbs and run on some side roads, the road is “yours” but this will NEVER compare to a city shutting down the streets so that you and a stampede of other crazy folk like yourself can run free rein in. Sometimes there are even police barricades to keep spectators out of your way. You can even litter by throwing your Gu or other wrappers on the ground (try to throw them near water stops for the sake of the area you are running in!). I always think it is a pain when I do my long runs when there aren’t trash cans nearby and I have to carry used Gu packets!  I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying a zip lock baggie to throw my used Gu’s in for my long runs so that I don’t litter or get my hands all sticky with the used Gu packets.

It feels like you are a superstar when you are running a race because you have a crowd rooting you on like you just WON Boston Marathon.  I don’t think any feeling on a regular run EVER compares to this for me.

(Photo by Mo Gomez from the Cambridge Running Club )

TEN. Volunteers.

You don’t have to worry about carrying water, stopping at a local store and whipping out a sweaty bill or if the water fountains are working properly. You have people handing you water, Gatorade, Gu, and cheering you on! Hey and since they do this for you-you should say thank you every once in a while because volunteers rock!

CRC Volunteers at the 2011 BAA Half Marathon

NINE. Speed.

You can run all you want on your own, but when you have a race that you are training for, it gives it you more motivation to improve your running speed. In all honesty, I wouldn’t ever do a speed workout on my own unless I was doing it for a purpose to improve a time. I could say, “Yes, I totally would do speed workouts on my own regardless of races.” But I’d be completely lying! There are people out there that would do speed workouts without a race in mind and props to you! But I think a lot of people need those races to give them that extra push to improve their speed.

(Photo by David Liquori from the Cambridge Running Club )

EIGHT. Competition.

When you are running a race, you push yourself more because you are competing against the clock. But I am pretty sure almost every runner looks at the people in front of them and says, “I am going to try to catch that person right there.” Sometimes you do catch that person and sometimes you don’t, but it gives you something to aim for that you might not try as hard for if you are running leisurely. And in the end, no matter who you are competing with, you are always pumped up for other runner to race and see them finish! I feel like running never has any spiteful competition-it’s all friendly and encouraging to other athletes.

I remember when I was competing in the Pumpkinman Half Ironman that bikers would pass me but they would also cheer me on and tell me to keep it up. And it really did helped me! I would see them ahead of me and try to catch them but I never was angry or trying to beat them just to beat THEM but moreso to give me some motivation to improve my performance.

SEVEN. Planning and Efficiency.

In order to complete a race, you need to commit to a training plan and be efficient with your time. If you aren’t, then you won’t be able to still train, spend time with your family, get your work done, AND be social with friends. I don’t know about you other athletes out there, but when I’m training, I get so much more done because I know my time is precious! Some people still can plan and be efficient without a race but for me personally, it does give me more motivation to plan ahead and be efficient with my time.

My friend Emma , who just did the Trek Across Maine, just signed up for the Pumpkinman Half Ironman that I did last year and has her plan up in front of her desk along with her plan to study for her ARE’s (millions of tests she has to take to become an official architect)!

SIX. Motivation.

When I was newer to running, having that race really motivated me on that rainy day to get out there and run. I wanted to finish my race so I knew I had to put the work in. I also am someone who LOVES food (uh-what runner DOESN’T?!). I love trying new foods of all kinds, some healthy and some not. Since I still want to look fit, knowing that I will be eating a ginormous helping of ice cream later that night does give me that extra push to get my legs going!

But that’s not all folks! There is also the money motivation. You pay sometimes up to $200 for some of these races and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have money to throw around and make it rain. So if I pay for a race, I want to race that race (unless I’m injured of course).

Races get you into thinking, “I better get my butt out there and run because if I don’t, I not only paid for this race but I want to do it well and I WANT that ice cream to feel well deserved when I eat it!”

FIVE. Passion and Bling.

Most runners end up getting pretty passionate about the sport after their first race (shall we count the number of running blogs out there?!). I think that we should classify running as a drug and I have heavily overdosed. Send me to rehab! Heck, people are so passionate they go out and run 100 milers, or races with crazy obstacle runs like the Tough Mudder , or join something like the 50 States Marathon club and try to run a marathon in every state! This might be a goal of mine someday, as I do want to be that 70 year old woman still running marathons, but probably after I meet my 3:00 marathon goal :)

Oh-and who doesn’t love to get a new medal to hang up to prove they did something really cool?! I know I have my dear Susie the dressform with her medals in my apartment (clearly I haven’t been sewing enough…).

FOUR. Fitness.

When you run, you get fit. But when you race, you get really fit. I know you may not believe it since I’m so addicted to running now, but I used to not even be able to run 3 miles without being super out of breath. I would get really grumpy when Dave had me go for a run with him and he’d try to talk to me or try to convince me to try to go a little faster or a little farther. But despite this, I decided to sign up for my first marathon only having run ONE 5k up until that point. The experience was so inspiring that I kept going and run 5 marathons and plenty more in the future!  Now look at that girl!


One of the main reasons I love running is really not for the fitness, but a lot of the social aspects of it. I’ve met so many cool people that I love hanging out with and learn so much with.  It is the best feeling in the world to know that you have friends you can go out for a 3 hour run with and keep eachother company.  They are always there to support you during your efforts and definitely have kept me positive about things when I may feel a little down.  What other crazy, awesome people would spend 24 hours in a van running a 200 mile relay but my CRC girls?

But fun isn’t just with who you do the races WITH but who is watching the races!  Depending on the race, you might have people doing dances, playing music, or who knows what else!  I still remember one of my favorite parts in the Chicago Marathon was when I saw a bunch of college guys dressed in clothes like an old woman and singing and dancing out on the sidelines.  I literally started laughing out loud and continued running with a huge smile on my face.  Now don’t tell me you can see that when you just go out and go for a run for free, do you?!

TWO. Camaraderie.

As runners, if you see someone out in a race shirt, you probably get really excited. In one of my yoga classes, someone was wearing a marathon shirt. I had asked if she runs a lot of marathons and then we were gabbing all up until the class started.  Runners LOVE talking run and the excitement of races amplify this a million times more.

And what better than going to a race with your entire running club?

(Photo by Javier Cheung from the Cambridge Running Club )

Or helping your friend get up one of the toughest hills in their life (literally).

Running races pretty much is like a spirit week at high school but a lot more fun! :)

ONE. Confidence.

I used to be so shy, afraid to stand up for myself, and go with what the majority of people do.  But through running and fitness, I really did gain so much confidence in myself after seeing how much I can accomplish. Me, the girl who quit track in high school because she despised running so much, now has completed 5 marathons and is not afraid of being who she really is. Just ask my coworkers!  They know I am not afraid to be who I am and tell them how I feel.

Signing up for a race, training for that race, and then COMPLETING that race with tangible results whether they are good or bad is the best thing in the world. If you do well, you just want to do better next time. If you do poorly, you just want to do another race to prove to yourself that you CAN do better. It’s a win-win situation either way. You realize that you are able to accomplish so much and you aren’t going to let any challenge get in your way.


What are some reasons YOU think people should race?

Why do YOU race?!


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