Fitness Articles

Discover Your Reason to Race

Advice From a Former Olympian Marathoner

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If you have trouble getting out the door regularly, commit to doing a race even if you don’t want to run it competitively. Sometimes a local 5K or 10K race is the ideal place for this. The distance doesn’t dictate extensive training. They don’t take a lot of time out of your day. They usually benefit a charity and they’re generally a lot of fun to be around.

For those I coach, I write down a training schedule that takes them up to the date of that race. It’s so nice to have a plan that guarantees that they will be able to run a good race. Consequently, most people follow the schedule religiously.

Racing can further motivate you by providing a personal athletic challenge. Crossing a finish line is exciting. Finishing your second race faster than your first is even more "breathtaking." It’s very easy to get caught up in the joy of accomplishment, and as long as your goals are realistic, you can continue to improve in so many ways.

During high school and college, some of us didn’t have the opportunity or the encouragement to play various sports. One of the great things about racing is that athletes like you can do it no matter your size, shape or ability.

You get to line up at the starting line with the very finest in the sport and you don’t need to be a speedster to race competitively. Just having the courage to start is a good beginning. If you have trained well and perform your very best that day, then you are a beautiful and passionate athlete.

When you are an athlete, there is a certain sense of confidence and self-esteem that you acquire and build. There is accomplishment, most certainly, in simply running. But when you add racing to the mix, train hard and challenge yourself to go beyond where you thought you could go, you feel a greater sense of achievement. It’s quite meaningful to discover how much you can do just for YOU.

In the end, winning really isn’t about crossing that finish line first. I love to stand on a finish line and watch the faces of every runner and walker who comes across. Whether someone comes in first, fifth or 50th, there is a certain look on their face. I don’t mean that somewhat painful expression: it’s more of a joyful "I-Did-It" look.

You see, anyone who crosses a finish line always wins because winning could be finishing, or maybe it’s beating your next door neighbor, or setting a personal best time, or having the courage to begin the race itself. There are as many reasons as runners. What’s yours?

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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

  • This is a great article. One I will read a few more times to keep it in my memory! Thanks so much!! - 5/6/2016 8:58:24 AM
  • Thank you for writing this. I'm one of those who never did sports growing up, and never thought of myself as good enough. I'm running now (at 42), not very brilliantly, but with great joy. Your quote about being a beautiful and passionate athlete brought tears to my eyes. - 9/27/2015 10:13:57 AM
  • Sorry, I don't jog and I don't do windows. I tried running back in the '70s when I was much younger, slimmer and more fit. I could not get a stride no matter how hard I tried, short steps, long strides, forget it. So I went back to walking. Just because my husband had to run because he was in the military didn't mean I had to.
    When we were in Germany we did 10K Volksmarsches. They were fun, but I can't do them today. I've done 2 5K Race for the Cure, but probably can't do them now because of health problems.
    Not everyone can race, and those of us who can't or don't want to shouldn't be made to feel guilty. - 6/14/2015 8:35:56 PM
  • 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

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