Running Vs Racing

Last week I was getting dinner with a couple of my friends.  We were chatting a lot about running and training.  We somehow got into the discussion of running a race versus racing a race to youthful potential.  The main distance we chatted about was the beast, IE: marathon. We got into different views of finishing a marathon versus racing a marathon for a time. 

First and foremost, finishing a marathon is a big deal.  It’s huge a accomplishment.  Honestly finishing any race distance is an accomplishment. That’s another post though. There are many people I follow on twitter that run and finish a marathon every month…some even more marathons per month.  That is great and honestly I applaud them. It’s not something I see myself doing but great for them!

As most people know by now I’m injured with a minor stress fracture.  In some ways it’s a relief to not have a race looming over my head. It would subconsciously force me to want to recover faster from my injury.  While I wouldn’t mean too, I would rush recovery.

When I was injured in July, I felt I regained my fitness at the most awkward time.  I started feeling completely injury free exactly 2 months before my marathon.  I began slowly upping my mileage but in all honesty, it would have felt like a really rushed build up.  I would have never had the build up to truly feel like I was “racing” my marathon.

Yes I would have gone as hard as I could when race time dawned but I wouldn’t be reaching the potential of the training cycle.  There was not enough time (for me personally) that would have allowed me to feel like I was getting enough solid training in.  Then it would have taken a month for me to fully recover.  I was still debating if that was worth it to me.

It led me to my thought of running to finish a race versus racing a goal time.

Both have their benefits.

For instance: You can run multiple races to “run races”.  You don’t have to taper or fully commit to every race you sign up for. In fact if you race frequently, it’s impossible to peak at multiple races. I’ve done this with several half marathons. I’ve “winged” them and finished with a respectable time but not a time that is my best. In the last year I’ve finished half marathons between the times of 1:23-1:29.

I could finish more marathons yearly if I was following the same concept of treating some as training runs. 

You can do races as training runs with friends.  (I’ve done that several times).  You can do many more with less of a recovery time. For me, it is too much time to dedicate to keep a base that leaves me “marathon ready” and even more time to recover from a marathon.

Fully committing to racing and training for a single race takes more time.  For someone who has only run one marathon (such as myself) this takes more than a month to feel confident.  I’m a firm believer that in order to race well, you must be confident about your training.  If you are not confident your race is not going to go well.

Case and point:

When I’m running and training well I tend to do a lot of races.  I like to do races like a 5k, 10k or even several half marathons for speedwork.  I know if I chose 1-2 of those races to focus on, I could PR.  I end up PRing once or twice if I’m lucky per year.  Those are the races I’ve chosen to target and truly “race”.

The rest are races I’m running.  I don’t think it’s setting me up for failure because I know I am not able to hit a sub 19 minute 5k if I run a 5k every weekend.  I don’t look at the race as a failure if I don’t PR.  I look at the race as a solid training speed effort.  It might not work for some people but it works for me.

I tend to recover from those races rather quickly since they aren’t at my peak fitness and ability. Another benefit of training through and not tapering is that you will recover faster because these races are not at maximum effort. All of those rambling aside, I guess I’m getting at everyone enjoys running for different reasons. Some peoples goal is to run a full marathon in every state, while some people are looking to PR in a single race each year. The beauty of running is it’s what you make of it and everyone has different goals and motives.

I guess in summary there are benefits of both. There are benefits to running and training through multiple races annually. There are benefits for training for a specific race each year. It really just depends what your goals are.

Question for you: What is your biggest fitness goal?