I’ve signed up for road races for a lot of good reasons (and probably some bad ones): for the chance to PR, for the opportunity to tackle a new distance, for the sake of peer pressure, for a free tech tank and the promise of an epic bagel spread.
But funnily enough, I not sure I’ve ever signed up for a race for that most basic of human motivators: for fun.
Without meaning to, I somehow turned every race in the last six years into something calculable and serious — and always with a goal in mind. Originally, it was to lose weight. Then it was to get faster. Then it was to tackle 26.2 miles. Again and again and again. Oftentimes the races ended up being fun, but that was never the primary objective.
In racing, I always had a different target in mind, which isn’t necessarily a bad way to live, since it kept me motivated and accountable. But it didn’t allow for a lot of leeway. After meeting goal after goal for several seasons in a row, I erroneously came to believe I’d get faster forever, so when I had my first real terrible race, it was downright devastating.
With that win-or-don’t-try attitude, it’s no surprise that my last marathon was, well, my last one.
If I’m really honest with myself, that’s one of the reasons I’ve put racing on the backburner: I’m too busy with work and life and dog-ownership to run consistently, and as I get less and less fit, I know it would be too disappointing to attempt a race and come in at the bottom of the pack. I realize that’s not a very positive attitude, but I’m human.
So I packed up my shoes after the NYC Half in March and barely ran a block for a month. I even heard a family member at Easter tell people I was “retired” and didn’t correct them.
But that next week while
dusting my huge collection of race medals doing something normal, it hit me: while everyone in my life knows I’m a runner, not a single person knows — or cares about — my times. And while I may not like seeing my speed slow, I LOVE collecting race swag and high-fiving spectators and using my last ounce of oomph to sprint to the finish line. Slowing down shouldn’t mean giving up.
So I did something I’ve never done before: I signed up for a 5K with a friend exclusively for fun. And it was perfect. Instead of spending the whole time calculating my splits or weaving past the walkers, we spent a delightful 25 minutes and 59 seconds chatting and enjoying the Brooklyn scenery and not caring for one second (ok, maybe for one second) that I wasn’t going to beat my 23:58 PR. I was sweating and smiling and justifying the bagel I was about to inhale, and that was enough.
Who knew running for fun could be so rewarding? (Especially when the rewards come in the form of ice-cream cones, like at this ice-cream social 10K happening in NYC in July.) Fun run, anyone?
Speaking of doing things just for fun, that’s probably a good practice to apply to other areas of your life, too. Bake a plum tart just for fun. Take an acro yoga class just for fun. Dress your dog in people clothes just for fun.
Or if you’re my friend from the road race, write a super impressive Nationals fight song just for fun. And maybe, dear readers, forward it to your friend who plays the baseball organ at the stadium just for fun. #letsmakedavyfamous
The world is a stinky place these days. Let’s all have more fun together.