I'm not altogether sure why I race. I'm not masochistic and don't particularly relish the thought of minutes upon minutes pushing past pain. Whilst in the midst of the pressing crowd on a start line, I'm seldom focused upon race strategy - I'm terrified and just want out of there. I'm not using the race to prove aptitude & fortitude in meeting a great challenge. No, maybe that's not true. Sometimes, life's everyday erosion of esteem means that a race is an act of defiance, proof that I'm not yet done trying to make things better. So is that race reason number 1? Racing as an act of defiance.
I don't want a medal. Sorry, but I don't even want the 'free' tee shirt and would rather organisers reduce the entrance fee, ditch the tee shirt and give lots of spot prizes than reward the same few fast runners. I'm fast enough to win something at most events & the satisfaction of being a middle-aged woman who can place well is sufficient reward of itself. Actually, there's reason number 2 - to challenge expectations associated with age or gender.
Reason-to-race number 3 is that race routes sometimes provide safe, legal access to beautiful, interesting places for sanctioned off-road adventures or foot tourist views of city sights. That said, some of my fondest memories are of training runs on the Old Course at St Andrews and the neighbouring Chariots of Fire beach. Shoes were entirely optional and, rather than a cryospa, we had a dip in the sea. As iconic routes go that one is hard to beat.
Other reasons to race include: (4) to support an organizing club/charity or (5) because I'm wanted to make up a team, racing as an act of support, unity or friendship.
Very occasionally I'll focus on Reason 6 - a PB, but at this point in life a PB is inseparable from Reasons 1 & 2. Getting faster is most certainly an act of defiance and a challenge against expectations of an ageing runner.
I began this thinking that I'd write about not being competitive. I don't feel a need to win. During a race I'll divert energy & attention to speak with fellow runners and thank the marshals. I'm probably more vocal during a race than at any other time. I'll do my turn at the front of a pack to spare others the mental and physical effort of doing so, but am relieved when someone else comes through to take the lead. I slow down or move out of the way to make a gap for them. I used to have a competitive finish, loving nothing more than to pull a burst of speed from burning legs. It was fun and spectators love the spectacle of the last-moment striving for the line. I've lost that edge, but I'm working on it. OK, there's a wee bit of competitiveness there. Looking for a PB is self-competition too. Otherwise can I still claim to be non-competitive? Racing isn't only about being the fastest. It's defiant, challenging expectations, immersion within the beauty of landscape, supportive and unifying.
Non-competitive Competitor by Lorna Sibbett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.