A few years ago, I started running regularly. While I didn’t enjoy running when I was growing up (I think I was always sprinting – nobody ever told me you can pace yourself!), I quite enjoy it as an adult and get that “runner’s high” that I had often heard others speak about. After repeated suggestions by other runners, I finally joined my first official race: the Amazing Thailand Marathon 10k.
The race started at 5:45 am with a burst of fireworks near Democracy Monument in the old town part of Bangkok. I ran with a few friends including a colleague who has recently started running. To be there on time, I had to wake around 4:15 and leave home about 4:45.
Our winter has been warm with extraordinarily bad air quality, to the extent that I understand many registered runners decided not to show and the race was almost cancelled. That said, there was still what looked like several thousand people running the 10k and who knows how many who started earlier for the full and half marathons. There was also a 5k scheduled but that didn’t seem challenging enough.
I did okay, running about eight of the kilometers and walking two. I finished, but think I could have run the whole way if I had done a few things differently.
But what of the experience? Many people encouraged me to run a race because the energy and thrill of the crowd will help carry you along. Others seem to really value the medals they receive, tokens of accomplishment.
Me? I don’t think the race experience was for me. It involved getting up earlier than is necesary. It involved running with a much larger group than necessary (making it difficult to reach my pace). I ended up getting separated from my running partners. What I enjoy about running with friends is the social nature of it. And the medal? As I crossed the finish line and approached the table to collect my medal, I almost didn’t take one. It is just a hunk of metal I am going to have to dispose of eventually.
Following the race, many of my race running family and friends have dispensed advice: I should run somewhere with cooler weather, I should run a smaller race, I should eat more carbs when I first wake up so I have the fuel to finish the race…
Maybe so. But I’m not convinced any of those things would make much of a difference in my enjoyment of the experience.
This morning, though, I woke at 5:30, picked up a friend and headed to a nearby park. We ran 8 km. It wasn’t crowded so we made good time on our run. We were able to chat along the way and enjoy the fresher air of a park than of the city streets. At the end, no medal awaited us. There was no blaring rock music, cheering crows or unnecessary fireworks.
And that was fine. Because for me, it is the run that I value, not the race.
Congrats on your first race! No advice on how to prepare for a race — that’s entirely an individual thing for you to figure out. But, I thought I’d pass along some perspective on why you should consider doing races in the future.
John and I began running races the year you came to visit us in Paris. Having built ourselves up to running 10K, we signed up for a brand-new race that went through the streets of central Paris, along the canals, and up to Stade de France (national soccer stadium, in which we got to run a loop). A pretty neat experience for a first race. The next year, we added on some distance and ran a 15K on the grounds of Versailles; normally, as a tourist, the estate is so big that it’s hard to see much, but at running pace, we were able to cover a lot of ground in a wonderful setting. In both cases for the French races, the start time was around 9am, so we didn’t have to rush much to get to the race.
Last summer, we went up in distance again and ran 21K in the San Francisco “second”-Half Marathon. Since we don’t visit SF often, it was a cool way to piece together the geography of the city a little better, while hitting several major sites along the way. This year, we’re likely doing a 21K in Seattle which, again, is a city we don’t know well, so we’ll get to have a unique experience compared to a normal tourist visit. Alas, both the SF and Seattle races are 6:30am starts, which is less than ideal (5:15am wake-ups). I agree that the early start times for many races are pretty lousy; I’ve removed many races I was looking at from consideration because they started even earlier! BUT, a nice feature of both the SF and Seattle half-marathons is that they feature “pacers”, which let you self-select into a group that is running at your anticipated pace; think you’ll run the 21K in 1:50? Follow the guy with that sign. Think you’ll run the 21K in 3:10? There’s someone else you’ll follow.
On the whole, John and I only run races to keep us motivated to continue running throughout the year; without a race on the horizon, we might let up on our practice and stop running altogether. BUT, as I always say, I’m not going to sign up for and pay to run a race in Koreatown Los Angeles — because I live next to Koreatown and run through there several times a month anyway. We only seek out a novel, interesting race for our annual run, something that will give us unique access (e.g. the grounds of Versailles) or a tourism-at-running-pace experience (e.g. Seattle).
If you have a trip abroad on the horizon, particularly someplace that might not be all that familiar, do a Google search for “10K London October 2020” (for example), and you may find something that works. Obviously jet lag could make things tricky, so look for dates that may fall a few days after arrival so you don’t oversleep and miss the race!
Keep on running!
Thanks a lot for the perspective Mike. Certainly a good way to see a city you are not so familiar with and anything that involves not running in the dark would be more reasonable!
I have followed you on facebook about this race Chris. I am so proud of you for doing that and finishing it. I agree the running, the jogging, the walking with your own friends is so much more palatable than running among hundreds of people. But you finished. That was great. Love and hugs.
Thanks Dr. Zakiah. Hope you are keeping active down in Florida!
good for you. i have only done a 5K. and that was an evening run. i’d like to join more runs, but my lazy ass prevents me from doing so. i’m not an early morning person, i don’t enjoy competitions, and i’m not a fan of crowds. excuses, i know 🙂
Yeah, LOTS of excuses!
Running has never been my thing. I tried it but gave up as I found it too boring.
It is something that I enjoy much more with others than I do by myself.
After seeing you and Jason having success with running and meeting your fitness goals, I want to do something similar. I probably won’t be running yet. But will start with a lot of walking.
Walking is a great exercise. Go for it!
Good for you. No need for a medal to enjoy a run. I joined a 10K run once a few years back, and boy was I definitely not prepared for it. It was the first and last. I kinda miss my then university years when I lived in Boston and jogged on weekends, even during winter season. How time flies. I wonder where did my stamina go 🙂