The Other Side of Racing

Sometimes I, Dayna sit back after a big race and wonder why I do it. I am not competitive and I don’t like running alone. When I first started to trail run I would race to have a fully marketed route, aid stations to fill up supplies, and to celebrate a goal. But now, to be honest I have come to realize that the race day is the part I don’t like. I know it seems strange to say that I am a runner, with goals and racing has been a huge part of my life for so long. But lately, I have started to realize there is so much about race day that I actually don’t love. Let me explain…

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With running, it is the journey that I love. It’s feeling excited with my friends about something that we think is so impossible or crazy but we are going to make it happen together. It’s weekly training plans, group chats, inside jokes, epic training runs.. just you and your friends out there for hours. It is the whole trail family vibe that I run for. The friends, the awesome adventures, the memories I create out there on the trails.

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I get the whole race day thing, of course! It is a way to see your best, push yourself, set a goal and go after it. But lately, the more I times I put that bib on and toe the start line, the more I feel alone. I work all season with these incredible friends and I celebrate my finish alone. When it comes to race day I have so much anxiety about cut offs and if I will make them all that I usually don’t even enjoy the views or what is around me. I am constantly looking at my watch, waiting for the race to be over and praying that I meet the cutoffs. As I run, all I can think of is hoping that I will have time to enjoy a coffee or beer with my friends at the finish because thats really why I am there… to celebrate with my friends. Usually I am at the back of the pack so my friends have already been waiting for a long time or can’t wait any longer so just leave and I finish alone. Or I have been out too long and can’t wait because I have to get home. This is always so devastating. Where are my finish line hugs, hi-fives and cheers? I just don’t get it. It’s taken me years of racing on this emotional roller coaster to realize that maybe I don’t want to race anymore. Maybe I just don’t like it.

I really don’t need to race, my most memorable goals were ones I planned with my trail family not as a race but as a epic adventure. One of the coolest adventures was The Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim. It was our way… no time cut offs other than our own bodies wanting to stop. Mother Nature set the pace and tone. We took lots of snack breaks and endless photos. And even if we didn’t finish as a group… the whole group was there waiting at our finish with beer, bananas and potato chips. It didn’t matter how long we took, no one else had anywhere else to be. We celebrated our accomplishment together. There was no disappointment at the finish because my friends weren’t there. It was the best feeling.

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Looking back I think about the Knee Knacker 2015. It was my best friend Penny’s dream to complete the Knee Knacker after watching it on discovery channel 10 years ago. She had no race time goal, just a finish and she wanted to cross with me. We by chance both won the lottery draw that year and I promised her I would run the whole way together. However, on the other hand I had a time goal of 8 hours. I struggled weeks leading up to the race. I knew that I might not get my goal if I raced along side Penny the whole way. I became obsessed with my goal and it became a focus, and I nearly left Penny in the race to get that time, but thankfully I stopped my self. I almost let a race time come before a friend my best friends only dream and it was just to finish with me. I just don’t get why I felt it was important.

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I am also filled with so many emotions after a huge race like Transapline that we just completed. Courtney and I were partners but I felt so alone. The race brings so much stress that you don’t have time to talk to your partner, take a photo, share a joke. There I was in Europe, doing my life time goal race and I could hardly enjoy it. Cut offs clouded my head completely. I couldn’t take in the scenery of where I was… places that I will never see again.. places I had dreamed of for so long.…I just wonder why I do it!

I totally understand racing… and I am not diminishing anyones goals or accomplishments. I understand that some people want to chase finish time goals, or podiums or personal bests. But that is just not me. I am okay with that. Yeah, I might never stand on a podium, or run a super fast race… but who cares. I have done some absolutely incredible things, in incredible places and I am so grateful that my body and mind are strong enough to do this. I might not be fast but I am strong and determined.

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I have decided this year to choose goals but they will not require a race bib. They will be my time, my pace… slow steady, lots of photos and even more laughs.
I have decided to ditch the medal and grab my friends hand and celebrate the end of another epic journey. I hope you’ll follow along!

Comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this! I often feel this way so its refreshing to hear someone else say it!

  2. Oh Dayna – that was superbly written. You have captured what many of us are thinking/feeling, but never have the guts to say it out loud. Thank you so much for this. I really needed it. <3

  3. As someone who just started running last year, I often find myself wondering the same thing. I would rather enjoy the view along the journey than just to have an end goal of finishing within a certain time. I’m sure lots of runners feel the same way as you do. Thank you for sharing this piece.

  4. I feel like you wrote this for me, haha! I have had the exact same thoughts, though I’m nowhere near as accomplished a runner. The day that I finish something a little faster, a little stronger is the reward I cherish. Race day is supposed to be a confirmation of all that work, but maybe that day isn’t *your* day, and it feels like a big letdown – it destroys all the good feelings leading up to it with one not-quite-good-enough result. There are still races I want to do because they look fun or spectacular, but I will focus always on the journey; the race is only one step in the long chain.

  5. I love this, Dayna! I can relate. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Your article hit so many points, especially loving the training and camaraderie and then dreading race day. I just finished a training cycle with friends who had races but I didnt and I loved it!

  7. Thanks for sharing…as we get older we want to slow down and take things in….but we still want a challenge that is way I like hiking so much..my goal this year is to run a trail race thinking 25km only….will you be in Costa Rica?…

  8. This is very awesome Dayna…as someone who broke her ankle at Tough mudder..
    I have had much time to look at the future..
    I will run again..but I am only halfway back..
    My goal is not a pb or a big race..my goal is to just start again and retrain myself to run again..if only a few steps.
    You take it all for granted when you can just do it…When you can’t it is a different story..mentally and physically..
    You and the other Rlag girls are a constant inspiration. …way to go

  9. This is so meaningful. I am nowhere near as accomplished as many, having only run one half marathon. But I finished totally alone, unsure if my friends were ahead or behind me, and no one at the finish line that I knew. I headed back to my hotel room wondering what all the hype of a half marathon was about. Sure I achieved my time goal, but the ending was a huge let down. I think I will just run because I love it.

  10. Love your honesty and authenticity. We follow you because of your personalities not because of your run times. You inspire so many with your words. Be kind to yourself 🙂

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