There seems to be a lot of debate concerning “fun runs” versus competitive racing. I for one enjoy both. I read a Facebook post recently from a nineteen-year old decrying the popularity of non-competitive races and longing for a return to the glory days of road racing.
Let me first say that I appreciate a healthy competitive spirit. I appreciate the young (and old) runners who go out each Saturday and crush the competition while laying down 16 minute 5ks.
However, on the race course as in life, we all come to the starting line from different places and with different purposes.
Some compete with the effects of aging as we push our bodies to go farther and do more. Many compete with their personal demons and exorcise them each week on the race course. Some are battling life-long weight issues. Running is an escape from the pressures and hardships of everyday life for some. Many overcome addictions or life’s stumbling blocks as they lace up their running shoes each week. Some may be there because a loved one was concerned about their health and got them off of the couch to train for that first 5k. Those speed walkers with the comical gait? They may be walking because they can no longer run.
You see we are all competitive. We just may not be competing with the young, carefree athletes who happen to be at the top of their game. But we all compete in some way.
And yes we run for fun too. We’re having fun when we achieve a PR at a finish time that some would consider laughable. We’re also having fun when we run an untimed race while crawling through mud or having multi-colored corn starch thrown at us. We’re having fun while running a 15 minute mile alongside of our three-year old. We love every second of the slow race we run with a friend overcoming health issues or one who just stopped smoking.
Mostly I like to think that we run simply because we love running. Our love of the sport may be questionable while in the middle of a grueling 20 miler or in the midst of a brutal speed session. In the end though, our accomplishments and our sense of pride are there to stay. No matter how hard the last run might have been, we will stretch our sore muscles, question our sanity, and once again head out the door for another run.
So when you see the old guy with funny looking socks and that awkward shuffle at the starting line, smile a little inside. You can bet when the gun goes off he will be competing. And he will also be having a little fun out there. So smile a little inside. That might be you one day. If you’re lucky.