It was through racing that started my running life. I became a runner 6 years ago when I decided to join a 5k race. Since then and for next 4.25 years, racing was my primary motivation for running. I would constantly train to race. And there was always that personal race calendar to look forward to. Nonetheless, my love for running developed as I run and run to race. Then for some reason I weaned myself from relentless racing. Runners who were used to seeing me on the race route and in race pictures (even non-runners) thought I had stopped. I did not. I just barely race.
Running became enjoyable
Running never stopped even though there are no finish lines, medals and pictures. On the contrary, running became better. It has evolved into a very gratifying pursuit as the motivation does not come from external sources but from within. I have derived pure joy from running regularly just for the sake of running. By rarely racing, I was able to run to the tune of my body. Hard runs, easy runs, long runs, and shorts runs depended on my time and mood at that moment, hence freedom replaced structured runs. Somehow, constantly running ‘in the present’ made each run marvelous. Every run turned out to be good run in the sense that it never took my time for other things that I value equally. The great feeling after each run is pure.
Running became health-giving
A race as its name implies is a competition, and as a participant it is expected that we’ve prepared to aim for good performance. We also target improvements in succeeding races. It is an event where the runner can aspire for what is generally considered as outstanding finish time result that is relative to one’s age and gender in a non-elite field. This is how I perceive racing and to respect one is to do away with mediocrity.
Accordingly, when there is no constant and rigid training as what we normally do for a marathon, and likewise when there is no pressure in maintaining peak performance for half-marathons, 10ks, and 5ks, I became a wholesome runner. Running injuries due to over taxation of one’s legs and feet are non-existent any longer. With no nasty cycle of injuries due to cycle of races, running has never been this beautiful and continuous.
Moreover, I value my sleep that local races turned me off because of their unhealthful gun times at 4 AM for 21k, while earlier for a marathon. I can manage to run 21 km by myself beginning at 5:30 AM or 6:00 AM and be done 2 hours after, of which by this time the warmth of sunlight is still health-giving. Of my daily runs, 45 minutes to an hour is enough, and this I get to start only at 6:30 AM. No sleep deprivation at all, plus nowadays I have time to read at night with no pressure to wake up so early just to have high mileage training for a race.
Running became inexpensive yet priceless
With all the downside of racing I have identified for myself, paying for those high local registration fees is unwise. What if for instance my race bibs are free, but then, constantly racing still comes with a price that is even greater than its monetary value. Why pay when I can run for free anytime and anywhere without sacrificing sleep, reading, traveling, and spending time with those who matter.
By participating in a race, one can gain abubots (bling-blings), bragging rights (though I’m partial to finish time results than podium-based), shirts and photos. I absolutely don’t mind not having pictures as I solely focus on my running. Once more, why do I need to spend for races with unholy gun start times if what I mostly see in the route are lights instead of sights. So I don’t mind not having any of those race booties at all for these do not add significant value to my running life.
Tracking distance is not anymore as important as tracking time and quality when I run. It’s been quite a while that I haven’t worn a Garmin watch and it felt really good. As long as I am familiar with the route I’ve taken, distance can be determined beforehand or later on with maps. Pace can be mentally calculated. What I’m trying to say is that, Garmin is just a nice to have accessory but not a must have. No gear can ever buy me speed. Now, being stripped down to the essentials of having comfortable running shoes and clothes, plus total well-being, running became a value for money endeavor, if not priceless.
Racing once in a blue moon is enough
Once in a while I may sign-up for a race because of the beautiful scenery in the route – as a treat. Occasionally, I may sign-up to test my capability – as a challenge. Racing has now become a sporadic supplement to my running. Perhaps, the pleasure I seek from running goes beyond the finish line moments that racing once in a blue moon is enough.