I ran in my first race when I was 20. Fresh out of college, I think I needed something concrete to focus on. My running seemed to come out of nowhere, but as anyone who has started a fitness habit knows–it never does. I remember the 15 minute walks around the path of my apartment complex. The one minute run/two minute walks that followed. I think the highlight of my life that summer was when I started running daily at the college track (even jumping a random hurdle, which just seemed odd for a theatre geek like me & also someone that was not trained in hurdle-jumping), and someone asked me if I was on the track team. I almost died of both shock and glee.
So I signed up for a 10k. It was painful. A month later, I signed up for a 5k. I remember an old gentleman next to me running my pace while also cheering me on. As lonely as long-distance running seems, races felt like the opposite. Even running next to people in silence, you know quite literally that everyone is going through the same thing. I was hooked. Later that fall, I ran the Seattle Marathon. I ran it painfully slow, but it was such a beautiful race. I was running through woods most of the time, wondering if I was even on the correct course. It ended in a stadium, so there I was feeling like a very very slow track queen finishing a race.
After that first year, not another year went by without racing. It became a part of me, a way to measure time & a way to set goals outside my work/school life. I could be an athlete, something I never really excelled in as a kid but could be part of me now. It became a way to see whatever world I was living in at the moment. Some years I really focused on being faster or on running longer, but most years I didn’t set PRs or devote any more time than usual to my workouts. I was rarely racing to win; I didn’t have the discipline for that. I did become really smart at registering for races I knew would have less competition for–so even when I wasn’t that fast, I was still winning plenty of medals.
For the past 10+ years, I moved from running only to triathlons. I did it because a foot injury limited me to biking and swimming, so once I was all better I signed up for the L.A. Triathlon. I was in love. Triathlons provided the motivation I needed with an added bonus of being able to train on a road bike–where I could cover miles without even breaking a sweat. The swim continues to be torture, but I naively have hope that one day I will master it.
No matter what, though, I was always racing. Triathlons are super expensive, so after the first several years I realized I couldn’t compete once a month. I had to choose a “season” of races. I got used to racing less and training more. But once summer rolled around, I was so giddy to be out there competing. Even my year of least races–when I was pregnant & gave birth–I still did a triathlon when I was 5 weeks along (Kenzy loved it lol). Even after that crazy first year of motherhood, with very little training, I was back at it doing some run races.
Other more profound losses have overshadowed the cancellation of races, but I have felt it in my motivation. In March, I was gearing up to run a half marathon with a friend when everything was abruptly a NO GO. I celebrated by immediately cutting back on my mileage. I did a virtual triathlon, but with no one handing you water on the course & your dog stopping to poop during the run–we can all agree it isn’t the same. I completely stopped measuring miles.
I don’t even feel like an athlete anymore. I get my “fitness” in, but without knocking out some grueling workouts or dying of exhaustion on the race course–who am I? LOL. I stopped riding my bike outdoors because my normal path is just too crowded. I’m lucky to have a stationary bike, but doing my spin rides while my instructor Jonathan yells at me over the carefully curated mash ups he has put together just doesn’t feel like training.
I have thoughts like “I’ll do some sprints everyday and do my own fastest 5k ever!” or “I’ll order these new goggles and THEN I will want to jump in the pool and work on my stroke!” But mostly I end up dividing my daily workouts into 20-30 min segments involving weight-lifting that doesn’t hurt TOO much & runs to see the Christmas lights. All of this to say I really miss a good race. I miss the small town Turkey Trots, the big city marathons, the crazy hilly Orange County triathlons. I miss researching and dreaming about races. I miss drafting up my training schedule. I know things will ease up eventually and it will all be back again, but in the meantime I think I just have to be O.K. with this less motivated, less trained version of myself. The ironic part is that I now wear workout clothes ALL day EVERY day!
So to my friends that race several times a year or maybe just once every few years–I miss talking about your races! I miss seeing you out there on social media. I look forward to our collective return.