To Race or Not to Race?

by Shamala Kandiah Thompson

I have said often and firmly that I run but do not race. But now that I’m running longer distances and not feeling dreadful at the end, something odd is happening. I’m beginning to actually want to do a race.

Perhaps it’s my new Nike Air Pegasus reminding me that I used to race.  In my twenties I raced often in prehistoric versions of this shoe! I was never fast but it was no big deal to sign up for a half-marathon or a 10K. I even did a marathon in humid Singapore. I was 23 and figured that my body could cope with it.

Now I’m quite a bit older than 23 and have shied away from racing for many years. And to be frank being married to a super fast runner does not make it easy for a “boom boom” runner to compete and not feel like a bit of a failure. But I have friends of  of all shapes and sizes and fitness levels who are running races. So really not being fast and getting nervous at the start of the race is really no excuse.

The question is which one. Do I run a big race in Central Park where I will know a lot of the runners or duck under the radar by doing an obscure race? And what distance would be best given my current fitness level? I’ve been training with a friend who is doing a half marathon, the Royal Parks, this weekend. I risk collapse at the end of a half but then a shorter race would be less of a challenge.

To help me decide I’ve compiled a list of possible races:

Grete’s Great Gallop (Half Marathon), Central Park, New York, October 14 

Pros: This race has been associated Grete Waitz, one of my all-time running heros and 9-time winner of the New York City Marathon, who passed away last year. I’d be able to share the experience with four colleagues though they’d be waiting for me at the finish line. Also as part of the Norwegian Festival as post-race goodies you get freshly made waffles and Norwegian salmon. Of course I can get these without running.

Grete Waitz at the finish line in 2009.

Cons: Lots. It’s a very public race so my slowness will be for all to see. Paul is doing it too and he might lap me on the second of the two laps of Central Park! I’d also miss cheering and photographing my colleagues. And maybe I’m not quite ready for a half as I’ve run no more than 11 miles in practice.

Runner’s World Half Marathon (plus 5K and 10K), Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, October 21

Pros: Runner’s World is holding three days of running-related activities over that weekend and there are shorter 10K and 5K options. It will be interesting to hang out with other running enthusiasts and attend some of the talks. And it should be pretty time of year to take a road trip through Pennsylvania.

Cons: Getting to the race will take some logistical effort. It’s about a three hour drive and we’d need to find a hotel. It is also a totally unfamilar course which might make it a more  difficult race.

Rocky’s 5K,  Rockefeller State Park Preserve, New York, October 27

Pros: A small race (325 people) in one of my favorite running spots. I’ve spent many hours running and taking photos in Rockefeller. This race, to raise funds to maintain the preserve’s trails, would be a way of giving something back to a place that’s been a source of great pleasure. It’s a short race so the pain will be over relatively quickly. Plus my Rocky’s running partner, Kelly Gould, is doing it.

Cons: None really except perhaps that it will not test my endurance that I’ve been building through longer runs.

I’ll have to make a decision soon. So which race should I do?

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