I 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.
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!