Run to Race or Race to Run? (and my 'Off-Season' Plans)

When I was at the Mustache Dache, I was chatting with a friend and asked if her husband (also a runner) was at the race.  Alas, he was not.  She told me that he loves to race, but he hates the training.  This week, in an email exchange regarding the Seattle Half, another friend said something like running isn't really fun, or as fun, until race day.  On the other hand, in a Q&A section of the most recent Runner's World, a reader asked whether you could set running goals without racing.  These exchanges got me to thinking about whether most people race just so that they can do the running, or do the running just so that they can race.

Depending upon the circumstances, there are times that I can vacillate between feeling one way or the other.  But overall, as much as I do love race day, I think I like it best once it's over!  Don't get me wrong, I fell in 'run-love' while training for a race and set most of my running goals with races.  But all the effort that goes into a goal race comes down to just one day - one morning with so many variables that are out of your control.  The early hour, the nerves, the anticipation, getting into the pain-place to hit those goals isn't the fun part.  

Ah, always fun to break out this old pic! But, this was my half marathon PR race - gotta get into that pain-place.  

But, racing IS fun, too!  Obviously, or I wouldn't do it all the time.  I think this was a 10K PR at the time I ran it, and have since improved upon that time.

For me, the fun part is when it's over and I can look back and hopefully enjoy the awesome feeling of a PR, a race well run, or to learn from my mistakes and start planning my next training cycle.  A cycle that includes a Saturday long run, a really confidence boosting interval workout, or just an easy couple of miles to shake off the stress of the day.  To quote Kara Goucher:

"That's the thing about running: the greatest runs are rarely measured by Racing success.  They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is."

So I would answer that Runner's World reader question with a resounding YES (as did RW), there are other ways to set running goals without having to race.  You can do a running streak and try to work on consistency: set a goal of days run per week or per month.  The same can be done with mileage goals.  Or train to try new things, like a relay or a trail run.

I'm really hoping to add more trail running to the schedule next year.
Which brings me to current goals and 'off-season' plans.  I use quotation marks because in Seattle, I could race all year 'round and would love to have a goal race (a 5K PR is nigh) for early next year.  But, my wonky hamstring is acting up and I don't want to spend the first quarter of the year fixing it like I did last year.  So!  The idea of running the Seattle Half as a Thanksgiving weekend tradition is off the table for this year.  Right now I'm still running, but taking it easy on mileage and speed and focusing on getting back to being a bootcamp regular.  I've analyzed my last couple of half marathons over and over, as they've all been a bit of a bust in some way since my PR almost TWO YEARS AGO.  And what's crazy is that I set that PR by following a Hal Higdon training plan - no tempos, no speedwork, just mileage buildup.  I realized that, at the time, I was consistently hitting my bootcamp class twice a week.  Over the last two years, I've been focused on more complex training plans: getting in a tempo, speed, long run, etc. which has resulted in going to class about once a week.  While my hamstring is working itself out (and I get a little work done on it), I'm hitting up the classes at the Y like a BOSS.  I've gone to a new strength and cardio class a few times, I'm hoping to try the new Barre class and they're offering some TRX now, too.  Once I feel like I'm in racing shape, I'll channel my old Higdon/bootcamp training self, with maaaybe a bit of tempo and speedwork thrown in...


  1. Hope your hamstring turns it frown upside-down. Maybe you can channel a little extra spirit in my direction for the half! I'm excited but nervous, as this is my second half and I know what I'm getting myself in for. But I followed my Hal plan and built my mileage so I'm ready. I'm totally a race to run person, so for me it's really about what I've accomplished the last 16 weeks just as much as about Sunday's run.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. you'll do great! putting good ju-ju towards Seattle for all my peeps running Sunday :)

  2. I really enjoy the training part, but in order to do the training part, there has to be a race at some point! But I'm with you, the race day itself can be kind of annoying. I hope your hammy starts behaving soon!!

    1. yep, I just enjoy the training part MORE! :)