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Why Do You Race?

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By Ambassador Dendy Farrar

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Recently my beloved Chevron Houston Marathon asked the question, “Why do you race?” via an Instagram post. As I read the question, I thought to myself, “What a great question. I’ve asked myself ‘why do I run?’ and ‘why did I start running?’ many times, but I’ve never considered why it is that I race.” All of this pondering naturally led to this blog post.

2016 Refueling Station Map_FINAL
One of the most obvious things about races that is appealing is that all of the leg work has been done for the runners. The distance has been mapped out and flagged in obvious ways. Traffic is stopped and volunteers and police are present to direct us and keep us safe.  Because I live in the suburbs of Houston, it is a real treat for me to run Houston proper. It is an even bigger treat for me to run my city with streets closed to traffic, aid stations every two miles, and timing mats every 5 kilometers that alert my loved ones through an app of my progress. We racers get to explore our surroundings without having to worry about cars hitting us or going into unsafe areas. We runners get to run without having to navigate ourselves. We get to just run, and wave at spectators, among other runners, until we reach the finish line. Then, once we’ve finished, we’ll be offered a medal, shirt, water, and food. Just like that! There was that little bit about the entry fee, but it’s very much worth it. There’s just nothing like race day. There is something so magical about the way the entire city of Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., comes together on marathon weekend. Crowds line the streets as we make our way from the George R. Brown Convention Center, through West University, the Galleria area, Memorial Park, Downtown and all of the other neighborhoods on our way back to the GRB. I can’t even imagine the logistical puzzle it must be to organize a road race the magnitude of the Chevron Houston Marathon, and I’m happy to run this well-organized race where all of the leg work has been done for us runners.

1973 marathon start

1973 Houston Marathon Start Line

There’s another thing about racing that draws me in. It’s the ceremony of it all. It’s the nervous anticipation of the race, its the donning of the race bib, toeing the line, running a prescribed course, waving to spectators, passing runners, getting passed by runners, crossing the finish line, reviewing the chip time. It’s all of this. The ritual, the ceremony, the magic of race day. Race day is like no other day to a runner. It’s the performance after many dress rehearsals. It’s putting all the hard work into motion. It’s ignoring the nervous butterflies we’re experiencing and trusting our training. It’s reminding ourselves to relax, but still enjoy the excitement, but not to let it change our original plan for our race. Each year that I participate in the Chevron Houston Marathon, I think back to the history of the race. I think about the 1972 race that consisted of multiple loops around Memorial Park. I think about how 14 year old Tanya Trantham was the first female finisher that year with a time of 5:11:55. I think about how the following year Nancy Laird was the first female finisher with a time of 4:29:07. I think about how nowadays the Chevron Houston Marathon attracts tens of thousands of runners from around the world and more than 40% of those runners are females. All of these things run through my head each year on marathon day. What a wonderful treat to take part in this race. Race day is a sort of ceremony for me, and I’m so happy to play some part in the history of this race.

The camaraderie races bring appeals to me. Races are a sort of social occasion that bring like-mind people together for mutual support and fellowship. For me, one of the most exciting things about running the Chevron Houston Marathon is the conversations I have online beforehand with other runners that will be racing Houston. Many times I also have the pleasure of meeting the people I have been following and training with through Instagram and Twitter in person at either the expo or the race. What a wonderful support system social media is for runners. There is a wonderful running community on Instagram and my involvement in this community really helped to not only motivate and encourage me through training season, but it also helped spread a sense of excitement and joy centered around the Houston Marathon. It’s also the nervous excitement at the start line that we share with nearby runners. It’s the post race comparing of notes with other runners over a celebratory brew. As I’m fond of saying, two runners need little in common to carry on a feverish conversation for hours. The running will be enough of a connection. We runners don’t typically have many people in our day-to-day lives that share our passion for running; we have to look far and wide to find another “off” person like us. Races bring us all together and we love the fellowship of races. I particularly love the fellowship with other runners that I have found through my association with the Chevron Houston Marathon.

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There’s another very important reason why I race. It’s to build my confidence. Running is hard, but I can do hard things. After a race I feel a sense of accomplishment, even if I don’t get a personal record. PRs are fun; however, I know that I can’t get one every time. As long as I’m within a reasonable amount of time in keeping with my training, I feel satisfied. Each time I am competent at a race I feel more and more confident about my running. Every runner knows that one of the major keys to success lies in how much we runners believe in ourselves. Once the fitness level is there, running success is extremely dependent on our internal monologue and confidence, and races force us to work on this. Additionally, I have found through my involvement with other runners through social media and the local Houston running community, that I am not alone in whatever I am feeling about my running performance. Runners lack confidence at times. It’s truly inevitable. Some days we feel as if we’re running rockstars, and some days we feel like running rejects. Running the Chevron Houston Marathon and taking part in all of the festivities it has to offer, builds my confidence as a runner.

2015 finisher medal

And, of course, there’s the t-shirt and the bling. I can’t, in good faith, write a blog entry about why I race and fail to mention that the t-shirt and bling are contributing factors. I wouldn’t say I wear every race tee/technical shirt that I own, but I certainly have my favorites that I like to wear, and even the ones that I don’t don are very special to me. I wouldn’t give even one of them away. Ever. Last year’s blue Chevron Houston Marathon technical tee is truly one of my favorites of all time. I know that I share this feeling with many other Houston Marathon finishers, as we have “oohed and aahed” about the shirts all year. The medals, well, those are just the best. The medals look beautiful on display and they are a nice reminder of all of our hard work. My Aramco Houston Half Marathon medal and two Chevron Houston Marathon medals are my most prized medals. The shirts and bling provide physical representation of the memories of past races, and those memories are what keep us inspired to keep going.

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2016 Chevron Houston Marathon

While all of these reasons explain why I enjoy racing, it’s not the real reason I race. After much contemplation, my answer to the posed question, “Why do you race?” is as follows: “I race because performance is the justification of all of my hard work. It’s the ‘test’ after all of my ‘studying.'” For this is truly why I race.  Racing is a litmus test for me. It shows me what’s working for me and what I am struggling with. It’s where I put my training to the test. This led me to look up the word “train” in the dictionary: “Train (verb) to develop or form habits, thoughts, or behavior by discipline and instruction.”  Yes, this is what we runners do. We must be disciplined in pushing ourselves to form the habits, thoughts and behavior associated with running success. In order to stay interested, motivated, and honest with our training, racing is necessary. It is the best way for us to hold ourselves accountable.

Why do you race?

About the Author: Dendy Farrar
Dendy is a wife, mother, and high school librarian. She found running in her mid-thirties and is completely hooked. Dendy is a native Houstonian and looks forward to the way the entire city comes together to celebrate the Chevron Houston Marathon each year.
Blog – lonestarrungirlblog.wordpress.com/
Twitter – @densfarrar
Instagram – @densfarrar

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