Why Do You Race?
I’ve always been a goal-oriented person. The promise of achieving something big and impossible in the future motivates me each day to get up and work, work, work.
Since I picked up running in 2006, I used races to drive me to train day in, day out. It was also a good test of my progress, a great opportunity to keep in touch with fellow runners and, for races abroad, a fantastic way to experience the world. Since 2006, there has never been a period of time wherein I didn’t have an A-race to aim for. I found that targetting 2 marathons per year with a training period of 4 months could have me training almost the entire year with just a few months off to allow my body and mind to recover. It was— and probably still is—the perfect recipe, at least for me, to stay fit, maintain focus, and, last but not the least, keep me happy.
Last month, I dusted off an old book from our shelves and started reading it again. It’s The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, a book I highly recommend. It basically reminds you to live in the NOW. To leave regrets of the past behind or not to worry about the future. To make the present moment the primary focus of your life.
In one portion, Tolle writes: “Are you always trying to get somewhere other than where you are? Is most of your doing just a means to an end? Are you always focused on becoming, achieving, and attaining, or alternatively chasing some new thrill or pleasure?”
This got me thinking about all my past races. Is this why I race? Have I been living my life in the future by always aiming for the next marathon? And, I wondered: Can I possibly just enjoy running without a goal to work for?
After training for Ironman 70.3 Cebu for 7 months and completing it a couple of weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I woke up the next day with absolutely no A-race to train for. (Usually, I have the next goal in mind even before I finish the previous race!) For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been running, biking, and swimming at my own pace and distance without having to worry about a future event. And, surprise surprise, I’m absolutely loving it!
Truth be told, I don’t think I can last long being goal-less though. That’s just the way I’m built, I guess. Knowing myself, I’ll be scouring the web for a marathon to get me all excited again. Perhaps this has less to do with the need to “chase some new thrill” and more about being inspired and motivated. I think training for a marathon in particular gives structure to my days and weeks leading up to the race and that kind of focus subsequently spills over to the rest of my life. It’s just one of the many gifts of the marathon.
What I can say is that I did pick up some wonderful lessons from this book. I realized that sometimes it’s not bad to give yourself a break from goals and to just enjoy the present moment. Enjoy every single run for what it is without focusing too much on how it should improve your performance for your race. Take a deep breath, put one step in front of the other, and just savor the experience. It’s not the destination, but the journey. More importantly, I learned while it’s great to have a vision of a better, stronger you in the future, it’s far more important to remember that you are good, strong, and happy where you are right now.
How about you? Why do you race?