As Rachel Toor writes in her book Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running (2008, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press): " I knew the litany, the multiplicity of reasons why people ran: that it was good for them, in some physical, emotional, or even soul-enhancing way; that energy and frustrations needed to be sizzled out, like the fat in bacon; that many people, and most women, were raised to be dissatisfied with their bodies, no matter what they looked like, and running was an efficient trade-off for brownies and ice cream; that we are social animals, some of us, and want time with others, even if it is at ungodly hours of the morning and in weather that is not fit for those who do not grow fur; that solitary time is a necessary condition for hard thinking; that competition is endemic to the human condition and harnessing it in innocuous ways and at appropriate venues will, perhaps, keep violence at bay."
At the end of 2010, as people planned and posted their race schedules for 2011, I couldn't help wondering where all these people got their motivation. I have goals and experiences that I look towards in the coming year, but somehow racing just wasn't that important. Why?
I emailed a wide-ranging group of blogging buddies and sent out a general bulletin on the Endurance Athlete Project asking some simple questions:
Why do you race? Why are you willing to pay to run on public streets or trails, sometimes paying large amounts for travel and accommodations? Why are you willing to plan a race around a particular weekend? What ARE your motivators to race?
The answers were far from simple, ranging from being pushed by Patrick to a dissertation by Amanda (surprise, surpise), to a re-write by Chris, along with many others. I'll be sharing their responses over the next couple of weeks, so be on the lookout. If you weren't on the original email blast or subsequent EAP bulletin, feel free to answer the questions and send them over, I'm always happy to add to this minor research project of mine. In no particular order, here it is in broad strokes - people race:
- for self-identity or personal fitness
- to push themselves
- competition against others
- social aspect/excitement/spectacle/community surrounding organized events
- motivation to train/working towards a goal
- being out in nature (trail running)
- public validation/recognition, official time, the bling
- being a role model for their child(ren)
All interesting reasons to race, yet none resonate with me. Why? Not sure. A big part of it has to do with me being solo in my endeavors, I'm sure. I've never "raced" with friends (as I have none). I'm not competitive, either with others or with myself (hence the lack of current fitness). I am also more experiential than most, looking for the random occurrence that teaches/touches/affects me in some way. Races are perhaps too structured for me, too much pressure to perform on a specific date in a given location. A lot of the reasons given above I connect with on a real gut level, but they are important to me for training, not as reasons to race.
I had decided not to register for any races this year and instead was looking to creating opportunities for myself to attain certain goals as I saw fit. I am also lucky in that there is a very active ultrarunning group in the area (the Chicago Ultrarunners Group, CHUGS), who put on nearly a dozen Fat-Ass events every year, ranging from fun runs up to a 200K race this year. Pretty much any given month, I have the opportunity to, for whatever I'm willing to pay or for free, run an ultra in a forest preserve within driving distance of my home.
However, as the poet said, "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley" (for you heathens out there, Robert Burns' "To a Mouse"). This spring, I will be heading to California to run the Skyline to the Sea trail marathon with a cast of motley characters. I will also be attending The North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco in December (will travel for beautiful weather and scenery a theme perhaps?), where the whole family will participate in one way or another, trail runners all of us. There will also be one last race, yet to be determined, where I will be crew chief/lead pacer as a bloggie friend attempts her first 50. My goal to run an ultra remains front and center, yet not scheduled. Perhaps at a CHUGS Fat-Ass event, perhaps unexpectedly on a lovely weekend in nature, perhaps at the TNF Endurance Challenge. Will any of these change the way I feel about racing? Roll the dice (no Adam, not that way) and see what turns up.