Earlier in the year, I saw a bumper sticker that unassumingly yet mockingly read “0.0”. And I loved it.
For the uninitiated, it’s a playful response to those unadorned badges of 13.1 or 26.2 that people proudly display on their vehicles indicating that they’ve completed a half or full marathon event. I’m not opposed to these at all; I’m a runner myself.
But more than one of my friends have looked at me like I’m crazy for even tackling a 10k. And I completely understand that it’s not everyone’s idea of fun. Even people who played sports growing up or completed military service aren’t all exactly signing up for events. Running is slow, monotonous, and often painful. Why would anyone even want to do a race when getting on the treadmill is hard enough?
Obviously, I have my reasons. However, past experience has taught me not to proselytize. But if someone voluntarily comes to me with an interest in it, I’ll happily oblige.
And recently, somebody did. My friend is looking to move beyond the treadmill and hoped that maybe talking to me would help psych her up. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I really sold it. Encouragement isn’t always my strong suit.
Several years ago, my initial reaction would be tell someone to just get out there instead of over-thinking it. Over time, I’ve realized that sort of statement (i.e. “just do it”) lacks empathy and, at worse, can end up sounding rather egocentric.
What I do understand is how rough it can be to get started. I quit cross country after one season in high school. In college and in the immediate years after, I was inconsistent and often injured myself (well, the latter still happens). There are still weeks and sometimes months that I do other workouts in lieu of running because I’m just not feeling it.
For some reason though, I keep on coming back, and I wanted to try to list a few reasons about why I do now that I’ve had time to think about it. Specifically, I want to talk about why I enjoy running events in particular. So, starting with #5:
5. Safety: I know that perhaps our sense of security has been shaken as of late, but now race officials are being much more vigilant. I still see running events as safer than being out on your own. The support provided at large events has been well thought-out.
4. Entertainment: Whether it’s live bands every mile, funny signs, or eavesdropping on others’ conversations, there’s usually something that’s amusing. In later miles, they become welcome distractions. They can also make for great stories later.
3. Delusions of grandeur: You get a whole crew of people out there looking out for you and feeding you. Technology has also enabled races to track performance stats in near-real time (especially if you carry your own device). Depending on the event, there might be crowds. It’s like being an athlete!
2. Social engineering: I don’t run with a group, but being with a thousand other strangers helps me keep going. Most people are friendly and encouraging. I like chatting with people once in a while too. And if you go to enough events throughout the year, you might start making race friends. But it’s still only a competition with yourself (but it can be with others if you so desire).
1. Perpetual motion machine: My first event was empowering and motivated me to do more events. There’s a sense of accomplishment that I get from events that I don’t get from running on my own. It also adds variety to your running schedule and gives you a target to aim for. It’s the gift to yourself that keeps on giving. If they never existed, I’m not sure I would have matured as a runner or gain the perspectives I have on the activity.
Anyway, that’s my shtick, and I hope it’s helpful to someone. There are also plenty of other articles and lists out there. In the end, I think it just requires believing in yourself as well as a little faith that the rest of us aren’t making things up or crazy.