On Not Racing

On Not Racing - what happens when a runner stops racing and keeps running?

Moving to Vermont from NYC has been a culture shock in a lot of ways. Something that I always took for granted living in New York was the abundance of races on offer every weekend. There was always something to sign up for, always something to train for. Thanks to the NYRR policy of offering guaranteed NYC marathon entry to anyone who volunteered at one and ran nine NYRR races in a year, there was also always a reason in the back of my mind to race as often as possible.

A few weeks back I drove to Waterbury, VT, to see the ladies attending the Rise Run Retreat and cheer them on at the Leaf Peepers’ half marathon. Grabbing coffee before going to spectate, I ran into the husband of one of my friends. We chatted and he said to me, “So how come you’re not running today?” I replied, “That’s a good question…I don’t really know!” And it’s true, I don’t know why I haven’t been more proactive in searching out races in my general area. Maybe it’s that the debacle of the Vermont City Marathon kind of took the wind out of my sails about racing for a while. It could be that I don’t feel the same sense of a running community as I felt in New York. Back in Brooklyn, I would go for a run in Prospect Park and the running loop would be full of runners, even at odd times of day. Now I can go for a run and maybe two times out of three I won’t encounter another runner.

So what is it like being a former racer who’s now just out there running? In some ways it’s been strangely liberating. If I feel like lifting weights instead of running on a particular day, there’s no training plan or upcoming event to make me think twice. I’ve paid less attention to my pace and more attention to how I feel while I’m running. In fact over the weekend I went for a long run and totally forgot to even look at my pace or splits afterward. If I want to stop to say hi to someone’s dog, or explore a little side trail, or just pause and enjoy a view, I do, without thinking about how it affects my time.

On Not Racing - what happens when a runner stops racing and keeps running?

When I did the RRCA running coach certification in September, there was a lot of discussion of adding more easy runs to your weekly mileage, of conversation pace being an ideal for runners. This concept was also something Laura brought up when I did the Runner’s Reset at the beginning of the year. And just through not having a time, distance, or event goal to train for, that has become something I am definitely mastering. It’s meant I’ve built a solid base of fitness that has carried me through post (almost) marathon in May. 

But I’m getting the racing bug again. With the NYC marathon this coming weekend, I’m already excited just to track my racing friends online, as well as to watch the coverage of the elites. I know I’ll be inspired and excited all over again for pushing myself and seeing what I can achieve. I haven’t decided whether I will apply to run the Vermont City Marathon again in the spring. My gut feeling is no, maybe only because training for it was rough for me and the experience itself was brutal. I am actually considering picking a goal marathon somewhere I can travel – see a new part of the country and enjoy a trip as well as a challenge. 

Who else has taken an extended break from racing, without being injured or out of commission? Did you come back strong, or never really get the bug again? And what’s your favorite race in the US? I need some ideas for my comeback! 😉

Comments

  1. This was exactly my experience with competing in natural bodybuilding. I was so into it. I was addicted. I stepped back. I helped friends. I helped friends. And only after a stretch of years did I decide to try it one last time.
    Carla recently posted…3 ways to boost emotional metabolism.My Profile

  2. I went into racing retirement over the summer, and it was the best decision I ever made. My mind is clearer and my workouts are more intuitive. Like you, I’m lifting more, and I’m getting stronger everyday. I have lost some speed, but my mind is so much clearer. It’s also nice to have a social calendar again. Most importantly though, retirement has stopped me from falling too far into the comparison trap, and much of my mental game has ended.

  3. I went into racing retirement over the summer, and it was the best decision I ever made. My mind is clearer and my workouts are more intuitive. Like you, I’m lifting more, and I’m getting stronger everyday. I have lost some speed, but my mind is so much clearer. It’s also nice to have a social calendar again. Most importantly though, retirement has stopped me from falling too far into the comparison trap, and much of my mental game has ended.

  4. Interesting post…. I’m doing nyc marathon this weekend, and without having done it yet, I’m already thinking what’s next rather than just being 100% present for this one and enjoying it. I think sometimes we feel that we need to sign up for races to justify calling ourselves runners, when that’s not what a runner is at all. A runner is you… someone who is choosing to go on runs despite not racing currently. A runner is anyone who loves to and needs to run. It has nothing to do with racing.
    Paria@momontherunsanity.com recently posted…PromiseMy Profile

  5. Two runners in my office have also done the Vermont City Marathon (in different years). Both had horrible experiences there. Try something else. My brother ran a marathon in Kiawah Island, SC and loved it. He and a bunch of friends trained separately (they all live in different parts of the country) and then met there and ran it together.

  6. I spend the first 6 years of my running as a non-racing runner and I think that long time of building a base and not racing set me up for years of injury-free running. Still now I don’t race frequently – maybe 2-4 times per year – because I enjoy exactly what you describe as part of my training, as well as racing.
    I’m probably biased, but West Coast races have incredible community and scenery! The Portland Marathon is fun, Big Sur is gorgeous, Seattle is a challenging course, and CIM is a runner’s dream from what I’ve heard (and will experience in one month) – and then you can turn it into a vacation!

  7. I hear you on the solo runs and lack of races – it’s what I have lived with my entire running life. It can definitely be challenging without having a support group (or only an online one!) but you will know when you’re ready and, it sounds like you’re getting there.
    It was so great seeing you at the Leaf Peepers Half!!! I’m looking forward to seeing whatever it is you chose to do next!
    Allie recently posted…My Favorite Mental Preparation Trick for Race DayMy Profile

  8. Funny that I’m the complete opposite – absolutely feeling zero pull to run the bajillion of races there are in NYC every weekend! And after training for more than my usual this year, I’m looking forward to getting back to easy, mellow runs and being liberated from the grind of it. I’m glad that you’ve had this down time. I think we all need that break. Plus, so good to see you in VT! xo
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Chasing the Yellow LineMy Profile

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  1. […] Thing You Can Do. After my horrendous experience in the Vermont City Marathon last year, I totally gave up on racing for a while. I was still running though, finding joy in other aspects of the run than training and […]