A few weeks ago I ran The Chick-fil-a 10K race in Newport News at The Mariner’s Museum. Every year I come up with the usual excuses not to run it: too expensive, too busy, not prepared….yet every year I show up and have a great time. (By the way, I finished 2nd overall female!). Twenty-eight years ago I decided I wanted to be a runner. However, sharp pains in my sides and the boredom factor made me realize running was NOT for me. A year later the stress of college finals became so overwhelming that I re-visited running. I discovered it was a great stress reliever! After a few months I was running 2 miles. I started running local 5K, 10K, and ½ marathon races and frequently won my age group. Running races became my passion, and I traveled all over the Southeast competing in different races. In 1991 I qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon. Since 1990 I’ve shared my enthusiasm for running with anyone who will listen. Even if you’re a self-proclaimed “couch potato” and aren’t fond of exercise, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and experience a race. If you’re joints are bad, try walking. It’s not just about the physical benefits. The mental and emotional benefits are equally rewarding.
I’m an extremely competitive person by nature. And, honestly, receiving awards is always an honor. But what I love most about running is that it’s not a team sport. I set personal goals for each race and strive to meet them. One of our clients, Frankie Cupp, recently started running races. She said, “In running my first 10K it was never about how well I would place. It was about the confidence I felt that I was actually doing something that even 6 months ago I would never think I’d be doing. I found an inner strength in me that drives me to do better.” In addition to strengthening your heart and lungs, competitive running is definitely a confidence builder.
The Specificity of Training Principal says that sports training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport which the individual is training in order to produce a training effect. Therefore, if you want to compete in a 5K race, you must get out and run or walk! Start training gradually and progress to 3 miles a few weeks prior to the race. Every Sunday I run 8-10 miles. Meeting my personal goals in the next race motivates me to get out of bed. In addition to training for the next race, it’s my quiet time away from the kids and my time to “commune” with nature and focus on my body. Scott Haley is a Weight Management University client who is training for a ½ marathon. He said, “It’s a method to set a goal and train to that goal. I started with 5K’s. The fear of failure is a great motivator. You’re not losing because you’re not competing against another person. You’re competing against yourself.”
Race day is very exciting; adrenalin pumping, nervous energy, watching people of all shapes and sizes preparing for the big event. Some are athletes striving to set state records, some are the “race junkies” that show up for every race event, and some are “newbie’s” just excited by the whole race experience. Thirty minutes before the start everyone is mulling around, using the port-o-potties, stretching and warming up. Ten minutes before race time and the announcer tells runners to head for the start line. The faster runners head to the front of the line. A special guest sings The National Anthem. I have my shaky hand on my pounding heart, tears in my eyes, and feel proud to be an American. Next, the wheelchair racers go and I wonder how many of them were wounded in the Middle East. The countdown is 1 minute and I’m getting myself mentally prepared. I tell myself, “Don’t fear losing. Fear quitting.” 3-2-1 and the gun shot goes off. Spectators are cheering everyone on, music is booming in the distance, and everyone has the same goal: the finish line. They’re all here for different reasons. Maybe it’s to win a prize, get points for their running group, raise money for a charity, to set a fitness goal, or to lose weight. We’re all in this together now. Along the way, volunteers are handing out water and shouting out motivational words.
Our enthusiastic employee, Tina, is a runner, and perfectly summed up racing. “It’s an experience. It’s more of a mental thing; mind over matter. When you don’t believe you can do something and you achieve it. It’s an amazing feeling. I love the endorphins! Everyone at the race is happy. It’s one big joyous, healthy occasion from the camaraderie to the cheering supporters”
The cheering spectators help tremendously with motivation to keep going. The FINISH line appears in the distance and it’s like a “Chariots of Fire” moment. You can do it! You can see it! You cross the finish line and feel invincible! Race volunteers hand you water, bananas, and a protein bar. Most importantly, you win a shiny medal to wear proudly around your neck. (I keep all my certificates, medals, plaques, and trophies on my special “running bookcase.”). Every race is a different and unique experience. Sometimes they serve pizza, beer (!), offer free massages, give away raffle prizes, or have concerts.
At the awards ceremony, trophies or plaques are handed out to overall and age group winners. Overall winners often get additional gifts such as gift certificates or money. The truth is everyone who showed up and participated is a winner! Each person got a medal, race t-shirt (part of the sign up cost), and a bib number. I write down my times on my bib numbers and keep them for my running scrapbook. Brenda Nickel is a former client at CFWLS who participates in triathlons. She recounted to me, “Races are a great way to remind me how far I have come and how much further I can go. They are also a great way to keep me in my pants!”
To find a local race either visit a running store or just Google races in your area. There are so many to choose from. The most fun I’ve ever had in a race was the Color Me Rad 5K. These “brighten your spirits” races are held throughout the country at various locations. The staff at CFWLS has participated for the past two years. You start the race with a white t-shirt and finish looking like a tie-dyed hippy. During the event, overly-zealous volunteers pelt you with color bombs of blue, green, pink ,purple, and yellow. It’s an action-packed, amusing time for the whole family. It was Cat Keller’s first race. She said, “I walked the 5K. I’m not a runner. I’d rather do hot yoga or lift weights. However, I would do another race. I felt so good after the race I could have done a 10K. It’s better to have a friend with you because you’re exercising but you don’t even know it.”
I challenge you to find a race and start training. It doesn’t’ matter what your fitness level is. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”It could become your passion. If you want more information on how to train for a race, please contact Jim Bradley or Arlyne Spalla Benson at The Center for Weight Loss Success.