Yesterday, I completed my first in-person race since 2019. I realize that there have been races here and there since then, but I didn’t feel comfortable racing in-person until I was fully vaccinated. I was also freaking sick of virtual racing (does anyone else feel this way?).
So, I chose the Run Y-town 5-miler as my welcome back to racing in-person. This event is always organized, and the weather is almost always wonderful. Even with the course changes due to a sinkhole on the original course, it was a really fun day.
Here’s the best part: I didn’t run. I ran about two tenths of a mile total throughout the five mile course. And you know what?
The no-pressure, no-pain environment motivated me to sign up for more races and gave me a confidence boost that no matter what, I can almost always reach the finish line. I haven’t run more than two consecutive miles for the last few months, and I just started getting back into it. Five miles seemed kind of crazy at this point in my running career, but taking the pressure off and walking it did wonders for me.
Why should you consider doing the same if you haven’t run for a while? I’m so glad you asked!
You get to be back in the pleasantly intoxicating race atmosphere. Look, I am glad virtual races are a thing. They are the perfect option for a lot of runners. For me, though, I need the race atmosphere. When your motivation tank is below empty, running through an quiet neighborhood just doesn’t happen. Getting back into the race atmosphere is one of the best ways to get motivated to get back to running. The sounds of cowbells, view of mile markers, weight of the medal around your neck, and inclusive running/ walking community are just a few of the best parts of the running atmosphere.
You lose the “I’m not sure if I can even finish a race anymore” attitude. A 5k can seem daunting after time off. I used to laugh at myself because in 2019, I completed a marathon — and here I was doubting that I could manage a strong finish to a 5k. I was sort of nervous about 5 miles, but you know how it goes: when I got to mile 3, I knew I was golden and that I would finish it. I completed it without pain, so most of the “I can’t do this anymore” myths went away. If I can walk five consecutive miles, I can eventually run five consecutive miles. Furthermore, I can finish a race even if I’m not trained. I was able to toss one of my most used excuses after walking a race.
You witness the back-of-the-pack which is WAY more motivating than the front-of-the-pack! I said what I said. I find it amazing that some runners can bolt through a race so quickly! I also understand that I will never be one of them. Don’t tell me not to say “never” because I am definitely saying it; I may get faster, but I am not running 5:30/mile for a 5k ever for any reason. I do not want to commit to that kind of training. I find the back-of-the-pack much more inspiring and motivating: We are all working toward a common goal to finish the race (not win the race) no matter what. At the race yesterday, we were alongside a gentlemen who was at least in his late 70s. LATE 70s! And still running! If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what is.
You have permission to stop and pet dogs, smell flowers, and laugh. When we run races — especially to PR — stopping is pretty much a no-no (as in, I almost peed my pants during my marathon, and that was a better option than losing my pace). When you walk, you give yourself permission to (literally) stop and smell the flowers. Nature is much more noticeable and enjoyable, and you are able to nicely walk to the water table instead of running past it like a banshee.
You finally understand that no one really cares about your time. The running community on Instagram can be a little intimidating. It can be embarrassing to post your 12:32 tempo run when you just scrolled through posts of other runners with the “easy run of 12 miles at 7:03 pace.” Again, it’s not that fast runners aren’t inspiring, it’s that there are plenty of us who just don’t relate to that mileage and speed. When I crossed the finish line at 01:21:47 and finished 97th of 104 participants, no one really cared. They still clapped, and there was still plenty of Athletic Brewing Company NA beer at the end of the finish line.
Have you walked a race? Let me know how it goes!
Peace. Love. Running. — Courtney