Sunday, June 5, 2011

Racing Vs. Running-Secret of the Elite…

….from a not-so-elite.

Do you run or race? Is there a difference?

Dude, that 10 mile race tore me up! I am sore. What happened? I ran hard, yes. Probably harder than I have in a very long time. My ankles are sore, my legs are sore, my shoulders are sore…my body is sore. It’s good I guess since I have RnR Seattle in just 3 short weeks. I’m still undecided about how I will run this race: Race it? Run for fun? Race for fun? Shoot for another PR (it holds my current 13.1 PR of 1:55). I’m not sure I really know how to race a 13.1. Sure, I know how to run it but actually race? What does it mean to race anyway?

To me, racing is where I leave it all out there on the course, where I very well may collapse at the end (or sooner for that matter) and need to be drug to the hotel (or ER). Where my body hurts and my brain is screaming at me to slow down, but despite all that I push harder! Where my body tells my brain to shut it’s trap and pushes against the pesky brain who is screaming to just let off a little bit. Where I know I have never run a sub 8:20 pace for an entire 13.1 but the race is the time time and place to do it so I do it and I run faster than I have ever trained and harder than I thought possible….yeah, that is racing! I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if I have ever really done that, not even in HS x-country. It is hard to push yourself to those limits, to purposely put yourself in pain. It is hard to overcome the mental side of racing, where my brain tells me my body hurts and I can just slow down. Where my brain says, “What’s the point? You’re not an elite. You’re not going to win. Just save yourself the pain and slow down.”

It’s true. I’m not an elite. I am not winning Overall or even Age Group. BUT….but I was reading the blog of the woman who got second in Iron Man Texas, Kelly Handel, and it is clear that there is not much difference between her and I, other than her “comfortable” 6:50 min/mile marathon pace (and all her sponsors and her awesome tri bike, muscles, 0% body fat, shall I go on?). One difference is she knows how to race and she does it. Well. She knows how to push her body and exceed her limits through pain. She knows she will not die if she pushes to extremes. She has a strong mental game. She can push her body. I bet she trains to do that. It takes experience to know your limits and the line that you should be crossing in a race. Can I do that?

I’m certainly not saying I want to be an elite Iron (wo)Man, that just might be crazy, but I would like to scale the wall in my brain that eerily resembles the Great Wall of China, so that I can improve and push my own limits. It almost seems that the elites are some sort of super-human athletes. But are they? Or do they just have super-human mental abilities? Yes, physical fitness and prowess is key but in order to make it to that level of fitness and competing it takes a strong mind, a mind that says, “I can do this. I WILL do this.” and “The pain will not last forever.” And mostly, a mind that can shut out all common sense that says the human body should not feel pain and should not be able to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, then run 13.1 miles…the strong, elite mind says the body can and should do it and not only that but it can and should do it fast, faster than anyone else, better than anyone else…Go out, do it fast, get it over with and WIN.

I have unlocked the secret of the elite…….you’re welcome.

**And lastly, if you haven’t already, enter my Saucony shoe giveaway courtesy of! Contest ends tomorrow so do it now! click HERE!


  1. Elite runners have the physical thing together, but you're right...more importantly they have their heads on a whole other level!

  2. I think part of racing instead of running is being comfortable and "ok" with being UNcomfortable. It is going to be HARD. It is going to hurt. It isn't going to feel good and easy. To me that is the difference between running and racing. Racing is pushing it to the limit and holding it there, even though it is hard. :) Great job!!!

  3. I'm not sure how I am going to run the Seattle RnR half either - race it or just run for fun. I think I can do a sub 2. We'll see. Maybe we'll run it together for part of it?

  4. I loved reading this post. I say go for it in your RnR Seattle race. We have one life to live so why not make the most of our abilities! You will do great no matter if you "run" or "race"! The race is there for the taking why not make it yours!!!

  5. Great post!! I don't think I have ever actually "raced". I enjoy the journey and push myself, but I could probably push harder for sure.

  6. I definitely agree that mental toughness is a huge part of competition. But, I also know that I am nowhere near an 8:20 mile, let alone a 9:20 mile; particularly for 13.1 miles in a row. I will enjoy cheering you on as you blast past me at the RnR, and knowing you will be leaving it all out there on the course will push me to get my own PR!

  7. I agree. That type of mental push is quite coveted!

    I like to think I have a little bit of "crazy" in me, but not enough to be an elite (yet). haha

  8. Great post!

    I agree that regardless of the paces, it is the ability to understand that being able to perform outside our comfort zone during an event is an ability that separates athletes. If a person can give that extra effort and know it's only for a brief moment but the rewards will be long lasting, that's where mental toughness is born!

  9. I think I've raced a few times in high school track and cross country but for the most part I don't push myself enough to consider it racing either. Interesting post for sure. Something to think about.

  10. What a great post! Running/racing for fun will be something new for me, but if I can run RnR, i will likely go that route.

    Tough to "commit" to a PR when it hasn't been on my mind...I bet you'll listen to your legs and race what feels right!

  11. learning to race has been hard for me honestly. I can push through endurance pain, but speed has always been a mental barrier for me. I'm working on it this year though!

  12. I wish I'd read this BEFORE my half! Great post!

    Just to answer some Qs from your comment:
    The nathan water belts come with 2 pods specially designed for gels. They have a one-way valve (similar to a sippy cup valve) so you just suck and it comes out. I squeezed 2 gels in and a couple TBs of water so it had the consistency of chocolate milk.

    I think its a great invention, especially for a full mary or an Ironman where you're taking in multiple gels. Or for anyone who can't stomach a full packet of gel all at once. You can just take little "shots" throughout. And you can mix the flavors!

    Aaaand, I have 4 more races lined up between now and October. Then I'm taking the season off to prepare for the move. I am really looking forward to running with you. You have no idea!

  13. Every race I have shown up to, I have ended up racing. If I was just trying to bank those miles, I would have done it for free.

    Racing brings out my good side, and bad side. Sometimes I do well, often I don't. Doesn't change a thing.

    I will always be a racer, even when pretending to be a pacer.

  14. Yep, it's all about pain tolerance and knowing your limits. And unfortunately, just because you know your limits on a 5k, doesn't mean you know them for a 10k, and likewise a half marathon... you have to learn your body for every distance race.


You're pretty much awesome!!


Related Posts with Thumbnails