To run or to race; that's the question I've been asking myself since reading Ellie Greenwood's recent blog post about her experience at the Two Oceans marathon in South Africa. In it she says, "...I needed someone to help me 'race' rather than accidentally lull into just 'running'."
Her statement has made me consider my approach to racing (or is it running?) and it was on my mind at the Diez Vista 50km this past weekend in Port Moody. Leading up to this race, I wasn't very excited about it and I think it was mainly due to my uncertainty of the unknown, namely the technical sections of the course, which a number of people had warned me about.
I know I'm not a strong technical runner. It's something that I've been meaning to work on, but as often happens with things we don't like, it's just easier to avoid doing it, so I generally choose less technically challenging trails for training and racing because that's what I'm comfortable with and do better on.
Fortunately, the worst of the technical running made up less than 10% of the total course and there were plenty of long climbs, which I love. In fact, after the first ascent, I had a slight lead on the other top ladies but any time gained going up was quickly lost on the downhill that followed as they blew by me like I was deadfall.
As uncomfortable as I was through this rocky, rooty, slippery section, it was impressive to see how quickly - and agilely - other runners were tackling this treacherous terrain that was so much harder than anything I've ever run before. It was inspiring!
Once that bit was done, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and focus on making up some ground on the gently rolling, runnable terrain. The next 25k or so was quite enjoyable and I was able to cruise along comfortably and enjoy the scenery.
There is one substantial out-and-back section of the course that allows you to see where you are in relation to other runners. Dave (who was having a fantastic run and finished the day in third) passed me along here and told me the other women weren't that far ahead. Sure enough, I saw the top two women a few minutes later and then arrived at the turn-around point myself.
It was at this moment, I determined that I'm a runner, not a racer. Google's definition of "race" is: "to compete with another or others to see who is fastest at covering a set course or achieving an objective." I have no desire to compete with anyone but myself. I was happily running my own race and wasn't interested in chasing anyone down.
I race because racing allows me to push myself harder than I can or will in training. And I like the people I meet. And the new places I discover. And the post-race snacks (and beer!). Those are the best parts of racing for me.
Before the race, I told Dave that my objective was to finish without spraining my ankle (again) and, miraculously, I didn't. To place third and crack the top ten overall was a nice surprise. Full results can be found at ultrasignup.com.