It’s true. You can just exercise without paying for races. And let’s face it – who ever heard of a water aerobics show down or yoga contest? Besides that, the chance of me, a 52 year old woman, challenging for the top standings is remote to ludicrous. So, why enter running races and triathlons (2012 Emmett Triathlon report) at my age?
- Motivation is the most obvious reason. It helps me to be consistent about exercising and stay with the schedule as best I can.
- Having a goal or deadline stimulates efficiency of training. Efficient training is more rewarding.
- Camaraderie. When training with others beforehand, there is a higher level of interaction when there are races goals involved. At the race events, there is a unique connection with complete strangers.
- There is excitement in finding out what I am capable of. With the right balance of effort, rest, and perspective, I have discovered I am not as old and worn as I might be if I “just acted my age.” (My husband encouraged me to see how fast I could run the 2012 Main Street Mile)
- Being in a race typically helps me discover new depths of reserve and strength. It is hard to get the same thing from a non-race workout. Finding this out opens up new possibilities in mental and physical efforts for other aspects of my life, too. (The Shamrock Shuffle in March 2013 had unique challenges)
- Races add a little zing to the routine. Much like going out to dance is another kind of fun than dancing in the kitchen, there is something about the festive atmosphere of a race.
- The ebb and flow of races helps me to avoid over training because of the tapering before a race and the resting afterward. This is more effective resting than what happens when I am just sporadic or less efficient with my training.
- Preparing for races makes me think more about and get better at how to handle my hydration and energy needs while exercising. Whereas I might muddle through if it was just an unspecified series of workouts, the desire to maximize my race experience results in overall better decisions about these things. (I surprised myself … and the man behind me … when I ran the 2012 High Desert Trail Run)
- Last, but not least, I often have a more flexible schedule at this time of my life. I’m having fun being able to do things now that were not a priority when I was enjoying raising our children.
Some people begrudge the cost of entering a race. They might pay for a fancy coffee regularly, to get their nails done, or go to the movies, but somehow a fee for a race is scoffed at. It is all just choices in having fun. Even if races are avoided, it is likely that money is being spent to help make running/biking/swimming comfortable and enjoyable. Pretending that running (in particular) or any exercise is somehow outside the sphere of economics is, well, pretending.
So, I wear my race shirts proudly. Each represents a personal accomplishment and fond memories. I may need to alter some of them to be more fashionable or to blend with outfits, but wear them I will. They are both my trophies and my reminders of what I have to look forward to with my next race!