A couple weeks ago I ran my anniversary race at the York Beach Four on the Fourth, a 4-miler. This was my very first race ever so I knew I had to go back this year and run it again.
Since it was the week before my marathon training for Marine Corps would begin, I decided not to race it but rather to have fun. I would be running it with two of my cousins, my friend, and my uncle so I just wanted to enjoy it with them. Well, that lasted all of an hour and a half because when I got to the starting line I knew I wanted to run, and run hard.
I ran the Four on the Fourth last year in 37:16, an average pace of 9:19/mile, not too bad for a newbie runner. This year I knew I wanted to set a PR but I had a secret goal of beating my cousin. She’s been my running buddy since I started but she’s always been faster than me. I’ve finally caught up to her pace so I thought I’d make a go of it.
On race day, it was already 80 degrees when we got to the starting line with 76 percent humidity. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky so I knew the final 2 miles, which run along the ocean, of the race would be tough because we’d have direct sunlight.
When I turned onto the shore road the thought of DNFing crossed my mind more than once. I swear I had a stream of curse words flowing through my mind the entire time. I couldn’t cool my head down at all. People had sprinklers set up along the road but every time I ran through the icy cold water, I felt my muscle seize up. During the quarter-mile, my mom saw me said she thought I was going to pass out, which I nearly did at the finish. I had to get out of my head and focus on the goal- the finish line.
I ended up beating my cousin, by more than a minute, and setting a 2-minute PR, so all the pain of racing in the heat was worth it. Right?
A week later I ran the Lehigh Valley Summer Series 5K, a free race series in one of the local parks. I wanted to run this but since it was during the first week of MCM training I knew it would be smartest to take it easy. The conditions were less than ideal for a race, 86 degrees and super humid, so that also made the decision to just run for fun easier.
I set out running with Erica (of Erica Sara Designs, check out her stuff, it’s amazing) and was feeling pretty good. My legs felt fresh and although it was extremely hot and at the time I was just thinking about the finish line and the huge pile of watermelon waiting, I really enjoyed running the 5K.
I didn’t set a 5K PR and I didn’t cry about it. I had fun. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun at the Four on the Fourth. That was a different kind of masochistic fun. At the same time, it probably wasn’t smart to run that hard during the heat, especially when I didn’t come close to my fastest 4-mile time (done on a training run).
What I’m saying is you don’t have to PR or beat a friend or have the best race of your life to have fun at a race. Not every race is going to a PR but that doesn’t mean you didn’t learn something from it. Sometimes too, when you take the pressure off you’ll run even better. No one can complain about setting a new PR (except maybe your legs for putting them through hell) but sometimes running a race just for fun can reaffirm your reason to run.
Have you ever run a race just for fun?