Why, as a reasonably slow adult, would I choose to participte in competitive running events? I pay money, run when I don’t feel like running, make a trip to whatever running shop to pick up my bib and tshirt, get up at some ungodly hour of the morning, wait in line for a porta-potty in the freezing cold, and then run so hard I feel a little sick, only to finish in the middle of the pack, eat an underripe banana, go home, and go back to whatever the rest of my life holds that day.
Sounds a little crazy, I guess, when I try to explain it.
But competitive running events are immensely popular among adults who aren’t, and never were, elite athletes. I know some people do it for the social aspect, some people do it because they need some external accountability (interesting thoughts on this re: Gretchen Ruben’s 4 tendancies— stay tuned). Some people are just really competitive and they get a buzz from that. I get a little satisfaction from these aspects, but not a lot. I’m an introvert. I’m pretty self-motivated. So why?
While I was getting ready for the 10k I ran this morning, I thought about it. I think a major draw for me is the ability to decide I want to do something that seems daunting, and then find that I can, in fact, do it. I can run 6.2 miles faster than I did last time. I can complete the loop at Saguaro National Park without a break. I can run to the top of that hill that looks like Mt. Everest from the bottom. Yes, I can, I will, I did. And if I can do that, then, well. . .I know. Cheese city. But I think this is the magic for me, and I can access it in other parts of my life that are a struggle for me. It’s a message to send myself: you thought this seemed hard. It was hard, and you freakin’ did it, no problem. Therefore, you can do other things that seem hard— like presenting at that conference, like networking with those people you ought to know, like having that difficult conversation. Yes, you can do this, since you’ve already proven that you’re a badass. Running races has taught me that I can do all kinds of shit that has nothing to do with running.