So, last weekend I ran in my first race as a non-full-time athlete. Going into the event, I had my apprehensions. This being the first year in over a decade that I didn’t start “training” on May 1st, I wasn’t sure that my fitness would get me through the ~12 miles of road running ahead of me. After a life of structured two-a-day exercise regimens, I had little confidence that my lunch rides and evening jaunts would have me feeling sparky on-course.
That course happened to be 67 miles of highway, sliced up into 12 legs, two of which each member of a six-person team would take down (did you get all that?). It’s a huge race, a community event, that benefits medical research projects and attracts runners from all different abilities and backgrounds.
About a mile into my first leg, another competitor passed me and I briefly, but immediately, lost heart. All of those negative feelings that originally suggested that I leave professional racing collapsed in on me. I felt slow, uncomfortable, and like I was letting down my team. I wasn’t anywhere near my tag zone, which seemed to only grow farther away. I distinctly remember thinking, “I hate this.”
Then, something beautiful happened. As I came around a bend into a long, straight stretch, a parked car entered my sight through the falling snow (oh, yeah, it was SNOWING). In it sat an older couple, with windows down and I assume heat blasting, cheering on each and every competitor that ran by.
“You go girl!” One of them yelled, giving me a thumbs up. I felt an immediate pride in being there, in the snow, running as hard as I could. And that was enough.
After that, support car after support car passed me. Inside, team members were cheering, blasting music, and trading energy chews. They were sipping beers, dancing at tag-zones and rubbing each other’s sore muscles. It didn’t matter how fast I was running (it’s never mattered how fast I’ve run, or skied, or biked), it mattered that there were hundreds of people, running through the snow to support a cause and each other.
That was an incredibly long intro, but accurately depicts why, as evidenced in these 8 things, I fricken LOVE community running events:
Nothing brings people together like a clever team name and a little bit of glitter. Why wait for Halloween to do a group costume? You can do that right here, right now, with a witty play on words and an excuse to wear inappropriate sportswear. Oh, also, you might get your picture in the paper.
- Supporting great Causes
I don’t know who thought of the idea to integrate fundraising into athletic events, but that guy (or gal) is a fricken genius. Let’s combine community health, competitive drive, and philanthropic involvement. And then give everyone beer! Winning from all directions.
- Oh, yeah, beer! When I was a full-time racer, I always said the sign of a well-run event was what kind of snacks they had across the finish line. Community races are famous for their brewery, bakery, grill, and coffee sponsorships. There’s nothing like hitting the food tent after a hard effort, and community running races have that part on lock. For my part, I’m all about lying on the lawn at the after party and feeling proud of myself while chomping on free carbs and grill meat.
This one might sound redundant, but I cannot leave out the warm fuzzies I feel when seeing dozens of businesses, officials, and volunteers spend their Saturdays watching people jog in matching t-shirts. Whether to keep us safe, fed, or on-course, a lot of these folk’s work is behind-the-scenes and thankless. Nonetheless, they are the reason slouches like me get to relive the beauty of sport. So, thanks.
- Chafing Ok, so, I don’t love this one, but it’s important to note: these events remind us what kind of shape we’re in, and inspire us to do more next year. Whether it’s in the form of chafed sports bra, sore joints, or wrecked muscles, there’s a certain degradation of the body that makes us want to come back for more (even if said chafing is costume-related).
- SWAG Bag
Will I use these coupons, gel packets, key chains, and loose-fitting tech shirt again after today? Probably not. But will I be upset if there isn’t a plastic bag full of free pieces of paper for me to take home? YOU BET I WILL.
- Casual Grit
When we got to the start on Saturday morning, it was 36 degrees and nuking snow. The snow was surely going to turn into freezing rain throughout the day, and I wasn’t all that stoked (or prepared, I had two t-shirts). No one else seemed to notice, though. Aside from a few “brrr” comments, every singe competitor was down to deal with the conditions. Turns out, there may be fair-weather exercisers, but there are no fair-weather competitors.
- The spirit of sport It’s bonding with teammates through your mutual discomfort, cheering on competitors when they’ve pushed their limits, and helping someone across the line when they didn’t think they could make it. This is why we love sport! If you ask me to pay to experience it, alongside 500 or so of my closest friends, you can take all of my money.
Yeah, I’d say that’s what it’s about.