Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Love Hate Relationship with Road Races

When I first started running in road races, I was quite the loner.  I was often the only black person there and I was in the back of the pack.  Every once in a while I would make friends during the race.  People who ran around my pace and struck up a conversation during the race or in the recovery tent.  But generally I kept to myself.  I drove to races by myself.  I ran by myself.  After the race I ate my snacks alone, stretched alone and then drove home.

As my confidence increased and I noticed a lot more runners who looked like me and/or ran my pace or slower I loosened up.  I hung out longer after races.  I initiated conversations with people.   I even ran with other people every once in a while.  Occasionally,  I would choose the wrong person to talk to.   Some pseudo-elite runner would bristle at the nerve of someone like me to make a comment about the race or a suggestion about something he was complaining about.  But more often than not my experiences were positive.

For me running is meditation.   It is my time to clear my head, to fantasize, to work through my problems.   I have been told by people that they waved to me or yelled my name during a race but I ignored them.  I am so much in my head during a race that I often don't notice other people, landmarks and course markers.  Luckily I have only gotten lost twice!

Lately running has been less therapeutic and more stressful.  The local 5ks have become a place for families to gather.  For people to sight see and take pictures.  For large herds of inexperienced and rude people to block the paths of runners and turn a leisurely run into an obstacle race.

I find myself running off road to avoid people that are running 5-people across or swerving to avoid people who come to a dead stop in the middle of the road.  I waste energy passing these people or being angry at them.  I find myself tense and relieved when the race is over.

One solution is to line up closer to the front.  But then I risk making myself an obstacle for the faster runners.  I don't want to ruin anyone else's race.  A better solution is to take the local 5ks out of my rotation.  To only participate in longer or more difficult races that will not attract those people. 

This will take  me back to my loner days.  There will be more elite runners.  There will be less people that look like me.  I will be in the back if not last.  But I will have peace again.   I will be able to run my race with my shoulders relaxed and my head cleared.  It will be worth it.  I just hope my self esteem is strong enough to take it in stride.

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