Saturdays with Steph: How NOT to Race

If you’re reading this searching for tips to get a PR in your next race, stop now. There are already plenty of articles, posts, and podcasts solely dedicated to that cause. So, what happens when you aren’t trying for a personal best? How should you approach a race when time is not your sole concern?

Personally, this is something I find incredibly challenging. Despite my best attempts, it’s difficult for me to not get caught up in the energy and excitement of a race. Last fall, I completed a half marathon, hoping to use that race as a training run to prepare for another race. As race day drew closer, I started to panic. I realized that I had no idea how “not to race.” In my moment of need, I reached out to fellow running friends for advice, and here is what they suggested:

  1. Rip the Chip – One of my friends swears by this tactic. She routinely tears out her timing chip during races where time is not a concern. This tactic, similar to not wearing a GPS watch while running, completely relieves all pressure associated with racing for time. She explained that knowing that the race time won’t be connected to her name allows her to run stress-free.
  2. Official Pacing – Another friend suggested becoming an official race pacer. She explained that she does this to ensure that she takes certain races “easy.” She doesn’t get caught up in the excitement of the race, since she is responsible for maintaining a specific pace for other runners.
  3. Change of Race –Several people recommended that I try a different type of racing, specifically trail running. Though this could not help with my impending half marathon, I think that their advice is worth sharing. They explained that trail running provides new challenges (i.e. not tripping over sticks or getting lost in the woods!), that can effectively help you to slow down and take it easy.
  4. Find New Focus – Finally, a vast majority of my friends advised that I simply switch my focus. Instead of concentrating on my race performance, splits, and race nutrition, they recommended I focus outwardly, on the race course, fellow runners, and spectators. I ended up using this tactic during my race, and I’m happy to report that it worked! I was able to savor the entire race course, enjoy the beautiful fall day, and run with two of my friends. But, most importantly, I was able “not to race.”
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