5 Strategies for NOT Racing Your Next Race

fri5I ran the Rock-n-Roll Portland 10k this past weekend. This may seem like a strange way to taper for my 50k, but it was unavoidable. My work team decided to do it, and as one of the “runners” I really felt quite obligated to attend (plus it was really fun). But this brought me to consider, how do I NOT race this race? As a runner and sometimes racer our competitive natures come out in a race environment. While I told myself, “this is not a race. Don’t do anything dumb. Just run nice and easy and have fun,” I was afraid that I would be unable to restrain myself and would end up trying to race a distance I had not trained for and then injure or tire myself out in the process, negatively impacting the next week’s race that I actually did train for.

Run long enough and eventually you’ll be entered in a race that you aren’t supposed to, well, race. Whether we run them with friends or coworkers, as a tempo run, as a supported long run, as practice, or because we got a free entry, these should not be run all out. But HOW do we stop ourselves from racing like a fool?!

1) Bike or run to the start. A brisk bike ride or run to the start will be calming to your nerves and will nicely disrupt your pre-race routine. Plus you don’t even have to worry about parking! Just make sure to check ahead and confirm that the race has a bag-check.

2) Commit to pacing or running with someone slower than you. If you pace a slower friend, you’re not only going to be running a safe pace (and sticking to it), but you also get to be a positive part of someone else’s race experience! Like Salty did last weekend, you can focus on them and their race instead of on yourself and how you’re not PR’ing.

3) Wear slow shoes or clothes. Put the racing flats and team singlet BACK IN THE CLOSET. This is a time for training shoes and t-shirts. Also be careful to not under-dress as you won’t be getting quite as warm as you would in a real race.

Find a friend looking to run the pace you SHOULD be running and pace her!
Find a friend looking to run the pace you SHOULD be running and pace her!

4) Don’t start in the front. It’s hard to let people pass you. Start further back in the pack than you would normally and try to STAY THERE.  Do not attempt to pass most of the field to catch your normal pace group after the gun goes off.

5) Set a different type of goal. We’re used to setting goals such as “I want to PR” or “I want to be top 3 in my age group” or “I want to finish this new longer distance” but not racing a race calls for a different kind of goal. You could set a slower time goal (I want to run slower than X-Pace), or get more creative and set a goal to thank every volunteer, or encourage five different people who look like they could use it, or try to high-five 15 spectators or click your heels for every picture.

How do you ensure that you don’t race non-race races? I was not totally successful on Sunday, though I did follow steps #1, 3, and 4 above and would love to hear your strategies!

I'm a proud resident of Portlandia, ex-running store employee, pulmonary emboli conquerer and connoisseur of high fives. I write about running community, trail running/training and anything else that grabs my immediate interest. I'm currently running for fun with my crazy friends - no races on the horizon YET.

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  1. These are great tips! Even when I am racing, I have a really hard time not getting swept up in the start line excitement and adrenaline, and starting at an appropriate pace. (Case in point: the half marathon whose first mile I ran at my 5k PR pace. Needless to say, there were no negative splits that day!) So I’m going to try and of these next time and hopefully avoid a similar disaster.

    Slightly off-topic, but what did you think of the RnR 10k course? I ran it on my own the other day because I’m too lazy to plan my own routes. I loved all the bridge crossings, but all the RR crossings seemed like a really, really bad idea! Did people have to wait? Also, that stretch down SE 3rd was horrible! “Welcome to Portland–here are our ugliest warehouses and all out tent cities!”

  2. Yeah, the course was not fantastic or especially fast. It was very twisty and the bridge crossings (all FOUR of them) were fun, but not conducive to a fast time (especially descending the ramp to the lower section of the Steel Bridge within 800 meters of the finish!). Also, I heard that the latter section of the field got stopped when they raised the bridge midway through the race!

    As you mentioned, the section on SE 3rd was really gross, and I passed a TON of smokers, which is not my favorite. AND as you also pointed out there were RR crossings. I wasn’t stopped, but I was definitely nervous about it (given past Portland race experiences. . .).

    BUT, I had fun. The course seemed to be the correct length (VERY IMPORTANT) and started on time and it was really well organized, and I got free yogurt. So overall a positive experience. Not sure I would recommend it if you’re going out for a PR, but if you just want a fun 10k to do with friends, this one was great : )

  3. OMG! I get so worried about trains (why yes, I AM still bitter about Shamrock Run 2014), but I never thought about bridge raises! What a nightmare!

    Glad you had such a good time in spite of everything, though. I skipped the whole RnR experience this year because I did the half at Eugene the week before. Maybe next year the timing will work out better for me…