Saturday, April 2, 2011

Racing Season!! Challenge your Self.

It's begun! Racing season is here! I had some trepidation for the first 5K of the year this morning--possibly because of the exhausting week at school and the three martinis and gin & tonic I enjoyed last night...
but the race turned out great! The morning was beautiful, 40s and sunny. A little bit of a wind made it long-sleeves and shorts-appropriate. I was happy with my 23:08--and happier still that the field had doubled in size since 2010. That gives me hope for Cedar Fallopians who may be just beginning their running and fitness journeys.

It's much nicer to be outside in the sun among all types of runners eager to push themselves rather than in a mall under orange fluorescent lights among the super-sized zombies with credit cards. Still, it seems a lot of folks are intimidated by the notion of racing. "Fun runs" are "fun" but "races" are scary. Perhaps people are are nervous that they don't look like a "real" runner (what's a "real" runner?). Perhaps they are scared by the idea that there will be mean, competitive "real" runners  ready to call them out and finger them as shams. Or perhaps they are certain they will fail. But what is failure? Is it not self-defined? I identify as a runner. But what if you don't? Or rather, what if you haven't before? These fears, like fears and stereotypes of other constructed identity-markers-- of race, gender, ethnicity, class, vocation-- are grounded in not understanding or being able to empathize with that identity. As with anything, the more familiar one is with something, the less scary it becomes.

How wonderful that so many people came out to try something new this morning! These new runners challenged not only the physical capabilities of their bodies, but also their assumptions about themselves and others. Maybe I am reading too much into a simple event, but the very nature of a mall is that it is a place where your identity is being re-sold to you. You can affirm yourself by buying things that "reflect" who you are--hence the colloquialism to believe something is "to buy it." I like races because they re-affirm my self-identification as a runner. Going to a race for me is no different than going to a mall for most people. But I have so much more respect for people who are just beginning to challenge their identities by signing up for a race. They can't fail! The real failure is not to challenge oneself. If your challenge is simply to try something new, great! If my challenge is a time, fine--but how much lamer is that than really questioning prior assumptions? What do you think you can't do? I bet you can. Just Do it.

I hope to see many more first-timers and veterans out on the roads this spring and summer. Here's my tentative racing schedule--most of the races I find through The Running Wall.

April 2, Fools 5K, Cedar Falls
April 9, Shamrock Run 5K, Cedar Falls
April 30, Pi Sigma Epsilon 5K, Cedar Falls
May 8, Ronald McDonald House 10 mile, Iowa City
June 4, Dam to Dam 20K, Des Moines (tentative)
June 11, Viking Pump 5K, Cedar Falls
June 26, Sturgis Falls 1/2 Marathon, Cedar Falls
July 4, Cedar Rapids Fifth Season 8K, Cedar Rapids

(September 11, Park to Park 1/2 Marathon, Cedar Falls)
(October 2, TC 10 Mile, Minneapolis)

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