I've thought about races a lot recently - how my races have gone this year, what races I want to run next year, how many races I want to run in 2011 - and no matter what I come back to the same thing: racing is fun.
My next race will be Sunday, the Mission Inn Half Marathon in Riverside, which has spurned all these thoughts about races.
It's fun to participate in such events simply because of the energy alone. There are so many people out there, all trying to reach some sort of goal, and everyone is focused and prepared and concentrated (well, at least it feels that way). And everyone is also sort-of on edge as everyone's trying to push those last-minute doubts and jitters aside.
Once the race starts, we're off! I still remember the feeling I had in my first race, a 5K in Fontana in June 2008. I had a smile from ear to ear when we started the race, for no other reason than I was excited about racing. I had no goal in mind, no time to beat, no past performance to atone for, no bar to set. I just had fun because I was racing.
Things have changed a little since then. I look at races as a measure of where I am in my training. Races give me something tangible to prepare for, to train for, to bust my butt for. Usually during training runs, I think about upcoming races to get me nice and motivated.
Next week's race will be fun, like all other races I've done. This one is my local race. The start/finish line is about six miles away and I can zip in and out of the area without fear of hitting traffic or getting lost. The course will take me along a bike path which I've not run but might incorporate into my upcoming runs. It will also be the longest I've run in Riverside city limits. Technically we live in an unincorporated area of Riverside so within the city's boundaries I've not run 13.1 miles before.
On Sunday then, I will have a good measure of where I'm at, a decent gauge of what I am capable of and what areas I should try and improve on. The best part about that is I will get to do so while knocking out yet another race.