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Why race?

April 29, 2010

Running is growing in popularity – especially now it’s a bit warmer and lighter in the evenings. Driving home from work, I see a lot of evenings runners around Abingdon, sometimes in pairs or larger groups, sometimes on their own. Some, inevitably, are really going for it and pushing themselves, others are running for the sake of being outside and getting fit.

You might notice that I haven’t used the ‘j’ word. You know the one. I’m not going to write it. There’s no need for that kind of language. (Unless you’re in France, and it seems they don’t distinguish between the ‘j’ word and runners.) If you’re someone who regularly uses the ‘j’ word, have some self-respect, please. The only difference between you and a runner is a consciousness of time and distance. That’s it. It’s not some tectonic shift in perspective, it’s just the variables necessary for understanding speed.

Every weekend countless local club races are held, all too many of them not managing to fill to capacity – but hopefully all at the very least breaking even. For a newcomer, it might take a bit of courage to sign up to a race, but here are eight really good reasons why we should all race more:

  1. To give focus to your running. You can go for months – years even – plodding the same route and making no real progress with your health or fitness. If you’re not pushing yourself to achieve goals, you’re likely to stagnate and eventually fall off the bandwagon.
  2. To support your local running clubs. Most clubs raise their funds through organising races and rely heavily on dedicated volunteers to make the events run smoothly. Sure, it costs money to enter a race, and some events can be expensive, but if it’s organised by a running club it’s money that will support the development of the next generation of running talent.
  3. To measure your progress and set new targets. Be ambitious. Challenge yourself. Try to beat your times and push yourself towards the front of the crowd. You might tell yourself you could never win, but who knows what you could achieve if you committed yourself?
  4. Because it’s a community. It’s easy to think that running is a solitary activity as you’re pushing through the winter months with barely another individual in sight. Races have a great atmosphere and camaraderie, and a good event will leave you wanting to race again the next day.
  5. Because there’s a human story to every race. This sounds strange for someone advocating running as fast as you can, but in pretty much every race there is always at least one moving story of humanity overcoming adversity. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to finish early, stick around and watch the rest of the field come in.
  6. Because – for a few brilliant seconds – you’re a superstar no matter where you come. Kids have a habit of gathering just before the finish line and demanding high-fives from runners as they dash for the end. Absolutely, categorically, under no circumstances leave a raised hand unslapped.
  7. Because runners love scran. Seriously, we might all look slightly malnourished and weather-beaten, but we’re lovin’ the cake and tea and barbecue food at the end of a good race. You’ve earned it. (And if you’re anywhere near the Frieth Hilly 10k this year, check out the cakes – I had the nicest slab of chocolate cake after the race last year, and I’m coming back for seconds this year!)
  8. Because the more you race for the sake of racing, the more non-runners will start to understand it. It’s your job to inspire, to raise participation, to act as an ambassador and bring new blood into the sport. If the UK is to produce world-class athletes, we need more people to understand the pleasures of club running.
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