Fitness Articles

Discover Your Reason to Race

Advice From a Former Olympian Marathoner


Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of.
                                                                          – Patti Sue Plumer

The words "I’m too slow" are perhaps the most used three words of any would-be racer or racing veteran. Many runners head to the starting line with the fear that they will be the last one to finish. Then they surprise themselves and cross the finish line well ahead of other runners. Better yet, they are well beyond their own personal goals. No one is too slow to run a race. In fact, many of today’s races welcome both walkers and runners of all abilities. Everyone is applauded for simply participating.

There are so many great reasons to go to the races. For sport, competition, camaraderie, motivation, achievement, causes and just for the fun of it all.

It used to be that racing was purely competitive. A bunch of skinny runners, predominantly men, would charge down a road with grim faces and skimpy clothes. Some would collect their prizes and promptly head home. All of that has changed. Of course, I give women more credit than men for this great boom in racing.

Marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks have now become huge events. Hoards of runners and walkers of all ages and abilities, along with their families, neighbors, friends and co-workers band together to walk or run countless races. The courses are unique, the entertainment is fun, and the fans are plentiful. Some races are known for their parties afterwards or the food and drink at the finish line. That’s the fun stuff and a great way to tie everything together – work hard, play hard.

You can choose what you want to get out of each race for yourself. Maybe this one is for your strongest and fastest effort? Perhaps you are going to help another friend get to the finish, or this could be the family affair in which you spend some quality time with spouses and children. It could even benefit a charity that’s close to your heart.

When I was competing, I used races as goals to help keep me motivated and focused. I often found that when I didn’t have a race planned, it was much easier to stray from my quality training and goof off a bit. There was nothing to look forward to or "test" myself with.
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About The Author

Julie Isphording Julie Isphording
Julie, a former Olympic marathon runner, is an author, radio host and fitness expert.

Member Comments

  • I am running my first 5k tomorrow! I am so excited! Does anyone have any pointers about what to do the day before and the day of the race? I want to make sure that I am ready! - 4/18/2014 8:49:48 AM
  • I love this article! This describes me completely! I can't say that I really love running, but I definitely enjoy racing and that's why I keep running! I like training for the runs and I love the rush you get while running the race!!! - 1/23/2014 8:33:21 AM
    Great blog and true , not to long ago I DFL'd in an 8 mile race but this was after I recovered from two broken legs - what amazed me was that most of the Seasoned Athletes that attended the race stayed to cheer me on as I crossed the finish line - now I am training for a Tri - never give up ! - 1/4/2014 4:41:44 PM
  • I have never run but I always liked walking. - 6/30/2013 7:10:05 AM
  • I like running. But never tried running in a race. No more than a dog after me. Lol - 5/24/2013 10:25:38 AM
  • I am running my first 10k next weekend. While I have done a few 5k's I have never considered myself a fan of running. A friend asked if I would do the 10k with her and now 8 weeks of training into it and I actually enjoy it! I always feel so great after a run. Today we ran 5 miles. Sometimes it's hard to believe I can run this much 3 times a week. It's an amazing feeling of accomplishment! - 10/4/2012 3:15:22 PM
  • I will be walking/running my first 5k on Saturday! I am looking forward to that feeling of making it over the finish line. - 10/4/2012 10:07:30 AM
    I have been the last one over the finish line before, it was one of the most fun races I have ever run. It was my daughter's first half marathon, it rained, and the hills were slippery. We were cold and silly and enjoyed each other. Someone has to be last. My goal is always "Same day finish" It is all good as long as the finish banner is still up! Slow and steady finishes the race.

    P.S. the medal is the same size no matter what your time is. - 10/4/2012 10:05:17 AM
  • I'm new to running and ran my first 5K ever. It was a FANTASTIC experience and I've definitely got the running bug now. I loved this line "During high school and college, some of us didnít have the opportunity or the encouragement to play various sports." I always felt too uncoordinated and awkward when I was younger to play sports. And I certainly didn't receive any encouragement either. Now, as an adult, I can finally say "I am an athlete." - 5/4/2012 11:28:46 AM
  • Just what I needed to read today! I began running 2 years ago. I have run several 5 km's, one 8 km race and now in a mere 2 weeks, will run my first 10 km race!!!!
    The past few weeks I have really struggled to stick with my training and this article reminds me to look at WHY I am doing it! Thanks!
    - 11/13/2011 3:32:07 PM
    Last Sunday at the ripe old age of 56 I ran my first race EVER!! I ran in a half marathon and while I didn't finish in the first half of the pack or even the first 75% of the pack, I DID finish!! My time was an entire minute per mile faster than any training run. The 13.1 miles was 5 miles further than I had EVER run/walk. I stuck with my plan (walk 50 seconds, run 40 seconds) and I am hooked!! I do notice a huge let down - because it's over. The worst part was the anticipation and the self doubt. But once the race began in the pouring rain, and I had ascended that steep hill which was the first mile - I KNEW I could do it. I encourage anyone who is second guessing themselves to give it a try. Even if you have to walk it, you CAN finish and isn't that the real goal? Good luck! - 11/13/2011 10:45:11 AM
  • Just what I needed to hear this morning. I started a C25K programme on August 1st, ran my first 5K on October 23rd, and last week signed up for a 5 miler on December 17th. Today's run felt slow and sluggish and I was starting to second guess whether I "deserved" to be out there in a race with serious runners. I forgot that important part about it being what *I* want it to be. Thanks for the reminder and the motivation. Looking forward to my next training run ... for ME! - 11/13/2011 8:58:23 AM
  • Excellent motivational article! I started running because walking was getting boring. Then I decided to do a virtual race here on SparkPeople. So I decided to train with one of their programs. In the middle of the training was a race for our local humane society, so I figured I'd do the training there & help them out. Well, my dog and I ran that and we took 2nd place for women over 50!

    If I didn't have the bug before, I do now! - 11/13/2011 8:18:30 AM
  • Just loved your article! I walked a 10K last spring and this coming Saturday I will RUN my first 5K! For the past year, I walked 5 to 10 miles 5-6 days a week but as for running, I always put up "walls" saying to myself, I'm too old, my joints/feet can't handle running, etc. I've been training and feel confident I can do it. I'm 61 years old and have NEVER been a runner or an athlete. I'm excited and anxious! - 10/24/2011 10:52:05 AM
  • SJM2002
    I completely agree that training for a race keeps me motivated, I always have one in the works! Great read! - 8/11/2011 2:49:58 PM

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