3.1 miles is a perfect distance

Belonging to a group of overachieving, over-reaching and over-hill-and-dale runners is tough for us slow and steady, back-of-the-pack runners. We don’t measure our successes in the number of miles we’ve run; we’re focused on the bigger prize: getting faster and staying uninjured.  Sometimes it’s just too complicated to explain to our marathon-running friends.

“Aren’t you EVER going to run a FULL? EVER?”

We’re just damn happy to be running.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget why we show up every Saturday to run with Galloway. We haven’t signed up for a race yet. We haven’t decided what distance we really want to strive for. We don’t even know if we like this “running” thing yet. But we get dressed in our running clothes, grab our water bottles and show up. And showing up is very important. And then we go the distance. This week, for many of us, that will be over 16 miles. Remember, many of us have races we are training for.

Race? Training for a race? I thought this was just to get me off the couch every week! No one said anything about signing up for a race!

If you are a runner, and let’s face it, you’re all runners now, as it’s our 12th run of the season, you HAVE to commit to a race. Many of you have already run one. Some of you haven’t. If you’re on the fence about committing to a half or even a full marathon, it’s not a bad idea to “practice” with a shorter distance race before you do the race you are training for. Practice? Racing?

Yes, you CAN practice racing-just like you train to run.

Races are very different from your Saturday morning runs. If you haven’t completed a race yet, of any distance, there are a lot of things that are important to understand about running and racing.

  1. It’s not about competing against someone else; it’s about challenging yourself. Some of us are challenged by our friends, family or physicians. But in the end, we CHOOSE to take on the challenge for ourselves. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve really done it all on your own. Remember that not everyone who starts, finishes. Being a finisher is the ultimate goal.
  2. There will be a lot of people cheering for you. Yes, unlike our Saturday runs, there most likely will be strangers shouting encouragement to you! Enjoy it.
  3. Everyone is a WINNER. The moment you hit the finish line, you have won YOUR race. You did this. Maybe you had some help (thank a Galloway leader today!) and your family put up with your wacky running schedule, but no one else crossed that finish line! Running is one of the few sports where you can participate with the elite athletes. Believe me, there is nothing more amazing than realizing one of your running heroes just passed you, or that they crossed the same finish line you just did. Try playing an official game of hoops with Lebron James, and you’ll understand what I am talking about.
  4. You’ll get some cool schwag. T-shirts, medals and other cool things. Eventually you’ll run out of room for those t-shirts. But medals? NEVER! And if you choose a Color Run or a night race, you might end up with more than just cool schwag; you’ll most likely have some great stories to tell.
  5. You’ll learn something new about yourself. Yes, you will. You’ll either find out your third toe starts to blister at a certain distance, or that you never thought a dill pickle could save your life. Keep an open mind when you race. And keep your eyes open, too.

So how do you choose a “practice race?” If you’ve never run a race before, go with a 5k. There are 5ks all over the state every weekend. A 5k is a PERFECT practice distance. Why is it perfect?

  1. All races cost money, but most 5ks are inexpensive and benefit local charities.
  2. Most 5ks let you sign up the morning of the race. You can wait to make a decision at the last minute.
  3. It’s ONLY 3.1 miles. For most of us, that is a warm up distance. By the time you finish the race, you’re ecstatic that there aren’t 6.9 more miles to go.
  4. You get to practice your logistics for a race without risking your big race. You’ll figure out how to sign up, pick up your bib, negotiate the porta potties and find out what a corral is. And if you screw up royally, it won’t be as brutal as screwing up a half marathon!
  5. See how your training is going. A 5K is perfect for doing a mid-season Magic Mile. If you’ve missed fitting one in, go run a 5K. Use the first mile to warm up. The second mile to kick butt. And the last mile and one tenth to cool down. AWESOME! What’s even better, is that usually they will measure the miles for you! Do try to bring a Garmin if you have one-as it helps calculating that one mile in the middle. You can also choose to run your 5K at a steady effort and use Jeff’s calculator to see how that determines your race pace, too. It’s up to you!
  6. There will always be someone SLOWER than you in a 5k. Yes. There will be. Trust me on this. Unless of course, you WANT to be last!

If a 5k isn’t challenging enough, there are also 8k and 10K races. Raleigh Running Outfitters has a great 8k in August. Yeah, it’s hot, but it’s a lot of fun and they always put on a great post race party! If a 5K is too far? Run the Magnificent Mile!

So, stop procrastinating. If you have NEVER run a race before, GO RUN ONE! If you’ve run one, but not sure you are up for running a longer distance? Run a distance you know you can finish-then sign up for your goal race distance. Your shorter race will give you a great idea how your training is going. And you’ll be a pro when you step up to the line to run that first half marathon? Right?


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