Sunday, November 18, 2007

Race or Run

Hanging out over coffee after our 10 mile run along the Santa Ana River Trail, Jim mentioned that he was uncertain whether to run the Boston Marathon. He had qualified earlier this year at his first marathon in seven years. The required travel, starting line logistics, etc; all had him a little out of his comfort zone. Mary suggested that he should go and just enjoy the experience. She went on to suggest that he just run it and not worry about time. The look on his face was that of a person trying to make sense of something just spoken to them in a foreign language.

In the ensuing conversation it became apparent that Jim saw no value in just “running” the race. He’d never in 20+ years of running not raced a race. For the couple of years that I’ve know Jim I’ve seen this to be true. At every race I’ve seen him in he lays it all out there and is completely used up at the end. Jim is often recovering from one injury or the other. Jim is intense.

Mary on the other hand runs races for the atmosphere and camaraderie. She runs for the physical benefits. I can’t remember her sustaining an injury in the 3 years I’ve known her. Mary is upbeat.

Earlier in the run I had been asked when my next marathon was. I replied that I would be running Rocket City in Huntsville, Alabama in three weeks. I would be my 12th state, 15th marathon in 4 years. I lamented my recent slower times attributing them to the recent spate of marathons and continued hip issues.

Does someone who just runs a race not posses a competitive spirit? Does a racer miss the social aspects and the aura of the race locale? Of course the issue is more complex that this but where do you fall on the race vs. run debate?

I realized that I currently fall more in line with Mary than Jim. I had aspired (and still do) to running a Boston qualifying marathon. Although I think that running many marathons close together and running a BQ marathon are almost mutually exclusive goals. In my first couple of years of running it wasn’t unreasonable to expect my marathon times to improve one after the other. To achieve the BQ I think I'll have to reassess the chase for states at least for a little while.
Two weeks post marathon (recover phase?) I ran 22 miles. The next two weeks are taper (right?) for Rocket City with mileage in the low 30’s planned. I’ll be “running” Rocket City and doing my best to keep up with the other bloggers.


Backofpack said...

I'm guessing you know where I am - with Mary. Feeling pushed to compete sucks the joy right out of any endeavor I am involved in. Doesn't matter if it is running or not, it adds too much stress and tension for me.

So...maybe you are in a season of fun right now, and some other time you'll find yourself in a season of competition. In the meantime, enjoy where you are at!

Joe said...

One of the cool things about running is that you can have it either way. And I hope that none of ever "looks down at" the one who runs for fun and comraderie nor "sniffs at" the intense racer. Our sport would be diminished with out having both.

I'm actually tending towards a, maybe two, target races each year, with everything else for fun, building to the target race. Rocket City is the target for me...and I'm getting nervous. I hope that helps. And, it sure has been fun to take all the rest of the races as just training runs with lots of new friends.

Great post, Darrell. I have a feeling you'll be strong in Huntsville.

robtherunner said...

I am more in line with Mary as well, but I certainly strive to be Jim a few times a year. I'd also argue that you can certainly obtain the level of running dozens of marathons a year and BQ'ing a large portion of them. It does require a higher level of fitness, but it is certainly quite possible. Check out some of the maniacs race stats and you will see many examples.

Tyler said...

I'd say on my long runs I am a Mary. The feeling to finish something of a new magnitude / long magnitude is enough for me to feel great.
When it comes to 5k I try to be a Jim but I am not 100% comfertable when how fast I can go with out burning myself out to early and loosing it all before the finish.
December 2nd I will be a Mary.
Thursday Morning, I will be a Jim.

Wes said...

I think Thursday will be the first time I've ever "run" a race. I'm not up for half mary race, and Turkey Tros are supposed to be personal worsts, right?!?!

Rocket City, on the other hand, I will be trying to do my best, whatever that may entail.

I agree with everyone else too. Great post :-)

Training for a BQ has got to be a different approach. Maybe a little of trying more with less...

Donald said...

Count me in as a Jim guy. In my case, I don't do a lot of races, so I want to make every one a true test of my ability. Plus, I have a hard time paying that much money just to have a "training run" that I could do for free on a different day. I also love the challenge of pushing my body to the limit of its ability. And I might have mentioned before that I'm a somewhat competitive guy, so racing scratches that itch for me as well.

However, if I were racing several times per year, I would probably identify some of them as "easy/fun" races, and others as serious ones. It all depends on what your reasons for running are.

Randy said...

Great Post!!!!!

I think I find myself between Mary and Jim. There is still a competitive vein in me that wants to "do better" but I'm also aware of the need not to get hurt, and just "enjoy" the race event. It's a struggle to juggle those two for sure.

I've now got 2 of the 48 complete!!!

David said...

I am reading John Parker's Again to Carthage and feeling much closer to Jim. I only run marys twice a year, as elites do. I may be 85 when I finally get my 50th state but I am always racing - not you but the most recent younger version of myself.
It helps to be on a aesthetically pleasing course and that drives my race selection.

Anonymous said...

I go both ways. I'm never going to win, but I get competitive with myself - wanting to beat previous times. Although, if my running hasn't been going well or I've been injured or something, then I try to be realistic and just run.

Good luck with the next state! Wow! You are quite the marathoner.

Randy said...

Darrell I forgot to mention that if you are looking for a marathon in Oklahoma...the one that I would definitely recommend is the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon that is run in late April each year.

It is run in memory of those that were lost during the 1995 bombing or those that were affected by the bombing. It is a very moving event that starts in front of the Memorial and finishes one block away. The course has some hills but nothing like what you would see in Tulsa. OK City would definitely be my choice.

Anne said...

This is a great question -- and keen observations on your part about the injury issue and run/race outlooks. I suppose most of us fall somewhere in the middle -- we race against ourselves more than other but also try to savor some of the sights and ambience along the way.

My sister's very competitive and I always remember how we'd recall a race we'd both just run. She was all about the effort people around her were exerting, while I was remarking on some really cool house or quirky street name that she never saw. The course was a blur, which I guess is normal when you're moving fast.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Some (shorter) I race, some (longer) I run. Mostly I don't race, because I'm nowhere near competitive. But I like to lay it all out on the line sometimes and see where I stand when I do.

scott keeps running said...

5 years ago i was a jim in whatever i did - sports, eating, driving, sleeping, chess...

now i'm a mary - but a faster mary than all the other marys. :)

Rice said...

I love the fact of "finishers meddles" that they give out to everyone that finishes.. For me I race myself, physically or mentally, some times both.

When Terry Fox was dieing in his bed and they came up with the idea for a yearly "Terry Fox Run" one of the guide lines he wanted for this run was that it was not a race but no one can convince me that there is no spirit.



Sarah said...

"Racing" stresses me out. I actually race better when I tell myself its just a run.