When somebody asks me what it is that I love about racing, I have a dozen and one answers up my sleeve – as well as the ability to tailor which one I pull out based on who, specifically, is behind the question.
- Athletic friend: Why do you love racing, champ?
- Me: My competitive side comes out in a way it doesn’t on my meditative morning runs, driving me to push harder, stride wider and end stronger.
- Fratty friend: Why do you love racing, bro?
- Me: One 15K race burns 10 Bud Light Lime’s worth of calories.
- Latino friend: ¿Porqúe te gusta correr?
- Me: Repítalo más despacio, por favor.
The truth is it’s downright difficult to reduce my feeling about racing into a single answer. I love so many things about race day, from the respectful calm that comes over the previously buzzing crowd during the pre-gun national anthem to that final ditch-effort sprint over the finish line. In a city that generally advises against interactions with strangers, I love high-fiving spectators along the race course, chatting with other runners about their performance as we bundle-up in baggage and forcing sweaty friends to pose in sweaty post-race photos.
And let’s not forget the post-race pancakes. I love post-race pancakes.
But while it’s hard to pinpoint a single characteristic about road racing that keeps me coming back event after event, there is one thing in particular that I relish, although it’s something I never even remember until some two hours after I cross the finish line: that indescribable sensation of complete and utter exhaustion that follows a hard race.
Now don’t get me wrong. As a single 27-year-old woman working a full-time editorial job while training for marathons and singlehandedly keeping a half dozen New York burger joints in business, exhaustion is a sensation with which I am intimately aware.
But the kind of exhaustion that follows a road race is something else entirely – rather than a demoralizing and frazzled kind of exhaustion that postdates pretty much every day of my adult life, this post-race exhaustion is serene and fulfilling and all-encompassing in a way I can only equate with swaddling (back me up here, baby Jesus.) I like napping in general, but falling into a comatose slumber in the hours following a hard effort on the race course is a sensation approaching nirvana (back me up here, Kurt Cobain).
Racing means a lot of things to me – a workout, a challenge, another cotton t-shirt to force into my overflowing dresser drawers – but perhaps most importantly, it means glorious post-race fatigue. And that’s worth a $25 registration fee any day of the week.
Any other runners love that feeling of exhaustion that follows a hard effort? Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something gloriously satisfying about being dog-tired.