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To Race or Not to Race?

I’m not sure how it happened, but this summer I’ve gone a little race happy. Since June, I’ve done a 5K, two 10-mile races, a half marathon, and two 200-mile relays. And this is on top of the two relays and half marathon I did in May. To some, this may not seem like much. But considering that this is more than I used to do in an entire year, things are definitely changing over here in {ontherun}land.

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The truth is, the girl who fell in love with marathon training because of all the long slow miles alone has suddenly come to dread them. And if you asked me today, “Would you rather go out and run a nice easy 10 miles alone or do a 10 mile race where you’ll be running so fast you’ll want to puke?” I’d choose the race. Hands down. I can’t tell you how or why it happened, but somewhere along the way, I fell in love with racing. And I’ve come to crave that feeling of pushing my legs to move faster than I ever thought they could.

But because of this, I find myself 6 weeks out from MCM without a single 20-miler under my belt. Since my goal usually is to run three 20′s before the race, this fact has me more than a little nervous. I know it’s not the end of the world if I just run two, but it does mean that I’ve got to toughen up and get myself out there for my first 20 this weekend – only one week post RTB Relay (recap coming soon!).

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I have to admit that this sort of terrifies me. Through no fault but my own, my training this summer has been sub-par. I’ve gone through the motions, but I haven’t comitted the time and the miles that I did while training for National Marathon last March. I’m still committed to running MCM in October (don’t worry, that’s not what this post is about!) but I’ve got to use these next 6 weeks to really get my attitude in check – particularly because the next 3 are going to be especially tough.

So that brings me to this weekend, and the 20-miler that’s looming on the horizon. I’ve been trying to think up ways to make those long, lonely miles seem more bearable. And after a long summer of racing, my mind immediately asks, why not race??

Fortunately for me, there just so happens to be a Half Marathon this weekend in the same location as the 20-mile race I loved last March.

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I’ve heard of the Wicked Half in the past, and have always thought it’d be fun race to run. I love the North Shore of Massachussetts, so doing a half marathon up there would be a lot of fun. But at this point, I’m just not sure if it’s the best idea.

On the positive side:

  • Breaking a run down into a warm-up, a half marathon, and a long cooldown sounds much more manageable than running 20 straight miles
  • I’d have support for 13.1 of those miles, which cuts down on the amount of water and fuel I’d need to bring.
  • I wouldn’t have to stress about mapping out a course beforehand – all I’d need to do is show up and start running.
  • I’d be surrounded by people, which would definitely help keep me motivated.
  • I think it would be a lot of fun.

But on the negative side:

  • I have a hard time running my “training pace” during races, and will most likely push harder than I should.
  • It’s only 13.1 miles – adding 7 on top of a race may be harder than I think, especially if I get on the line and start running too fast.
  • It starts really early and isn’t exactly around the corner. Traveling 1.5 hours for a 7 am start means it’ll be tough to fit in a few miles before the gun.
  • The fact that I keep signing up for races is sort of the reason I’m in this mess to begin with. Is adding another one to the mix really the answer?
  • {And finally} I keep racing but not PR’ing. Although I don’t expect to PR every single race I run, maybe it’s time to scale back and start focusing on running quality races over quantity.

I’ve been staring at the registration page for the Wicked Half for the past two days, and I still haven’t made up my mind. I can’t figure out what I’d rather be doing this Saturday morning – and what would make the miles go by quickest.

So, since all of you always have great insight, I figured I’d just ask. What would you do – race or not? And if you just think I’m crazy, that’s okay too. Feel free to tell me. I don’t hold any illusions that I’m the most logical runner in the world.

40 Responses to To Race or Not to Race?

  1. I almost could have written this post! ;)

    IMHO, I would do the race. Training pace or not, if that is the motivation to get a big chunk of miles down, I think it’s worth the ‘negatives’ – because for me, all your positives are just so darn positive that it’s making me start a Google search about any half marathons this weekend to help me with my scheduled 20 miler!

  2. Although I really REALLY want to say go for it and race, I can’t :( I think focusing solely on the 20 miler will prove to be a great training run and leave you more confident for your upcoming race. I know it’s not as fun as racing, but I think it will be worthwhile in the long run.

  3. i vote to race. mainly because of the support and company. i have done plenty of long tedious 20 milers solo and its just not something that i would chose to do if there was an alternative. also, as i recall, it was last year during the 20 mile race that you effectively tested out your race day strategy. so you know that you have the ability to look at the race as training and shift your mental focus around that. so go for it!
    the dawn´s last post ..new toy

  4. Run it! Not sure if you’ve run this course before but it’s great! I am running it again this weekend as a training run too. It has a lot of hills and the scenery is gorgeous! Just try not to over do it(easier said than done, I know). It’s a fun course and it’s early enough so that the rest of your run will be done early.

    • I haven’t done this exact course but I did a race up in Salem last March and loved it. I’ve heard the course for the Wicked Half is even better, which is a big reason why I want to do it!

      Good luck on Saturday!

  5. I did this exact thing for my 20 miler this last weekend. I should have run 3 before and then another 4 after, but I ran all 7 after. And of course I pushed my pace during the race, even though I told myself not to. But I took the last 7 slow and easy, and I was glad to get the miles run, no matter that they were uneven, I got them done. I really liked using the course support for fuel and hydration, that was the best part of the “plan.” I’d do it again, too.
    Lana´s last post ..Friday five things x two = lots of woe

  6. I was considering doing the exact same thing at the Wicked Race! Then I went and signed up for two 5ks on the Sunday following thanks to the RaceMenu Double Down deal so I changed my mind. Have you considered holding out one more week for the YukanRun 20 miler? It’s also on the North Shore so it’s still a bit of a drive for you, but it looks like a nice enough course. Link: http://www.yukanrun.com/20-Mile-Race.html

    • I saw that a little while ago and thought about doing it. I loved doing a 20-mile race the last time I trained and think it would be fun to do another one. The problem is the timing. If I wait until next week, I’d have to do two 20-milers in a row before I taper…and I’m not sure my body is up for that. But it’s really tempting…

      • …and this exchange got me all jazzed up about the Wicked Half and how much I loved the Black Cat 20 last March and I just went ahead and signed up for the Wicked Half. Let me know if you end up doing it! haha
        Meg´s last post ..Don’t You Just Hate it When…

        • So you’re doing the half and then 2 5Ks?! Wow! I’m impressed. And now I want to do this more than ever! But I think I’ve decided to pass. I hate saying that, but I really need to get my head in the game if I want to get through this marathon – and that includes working on my mental strength during long runs. The race would be way more fun, but ultimately I think I’ll be better off running 20 on my own.

          Good luck on Saturday though! I’m excited to hear how it goes! (though will be admittedly jealous…)

  7. I would race it! I haven’t done a race as a training run yet, but I will be in October (a 10 miler) and I’m excited to see how it goes.

    If you think you could do a few miles before and then the majority after the race, that would help you out with the 7am race start.

    I also love the name of the race! I’m from Maine and I’m now living in Western New York. I stopped saying “wicked” and other New England and Maine phrases/words because sometimes people had no idea what I was saying!

    Good luck making your decision!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman´s last post ..Our longest run to date

    • Haha – I had sort of the opposite experience. I moved to MA right before high school and swore I’d never start saying “wicked” because it sounded so dumb. I lasted maybe 3 months before it was part of my everyday vocabulary. It’s just so catchy!

  8. I am way too entinced by this race…see my email…

  9. Ah I don’t know! My gut says race, but that’s only because I heart racing, too. Though- I doubt this would happen to you- last September, I tried “not racing” a 13.1 mi race as part of a 20 mi long run. I ran a 5 mi warm-up, ran the race, and passed out at the finish line from heat exhaustion. I (obviously) didn’t finish the 20 miles I had planned that day, but this could easily happen during a training run, too. I just don’t see myself making a half marathon part of a 20 mi training run again… at least not when the temp is above 90.

    Good luck!

    • I know. I was actually thinking about your race last year when I was going back and forth about this one in my head. That was definitely a scary experience!

  10. As much as the race seems like the easier and more fun option, I think it would help the most to just get a quality 20 miler done without a race. You will likely do it at a better pace (instead of racing it) and I think it will help you mentally get over this hump of not wanting to do long slow miles anymore.

    I actually sympathize a lot. I fell in love with running a lot because of the long runs but after taking a season off to focus on shorter stuff, it took me a little while to love the long runs again. But it happened :)
    Celia´s last post ..hunger games and the boston marathon

    • I agree – the mental toughness I’d gain from running 20 straight unsupported miles alone is probably the most valuable thing at this point….especially since I’m dreading these longer runs so much. Thanks for your insight!

  11. I don’t have much experience to base my opinion on, but it does sound like your positives outweigh your negatives, and a couple of the negatives are things you have control over and turn into positives. I just got excited and had to comment, though, because my sister and I are running this, our very first 1/2 (and my very first race) ever!

    • The Wicked Half is your first race? That’s so exciting! Good luck on Saturday! Maybe I’ll see you there but if not – I really hope it goes well!!

  12. Lauren, listen to what you want to do. If racing makes running fun for you, and in turn makes every race something you actually look forward to, (and do not dread), then run the Wicked! I love that you are loving these races, and isn’t that what really matters? You look and feel fantastic. Go for it!! Love you!

  13. When I was training for ultras this is how I felt all the time — “UGH NOT ANOTHER LONG RUN NO.” I found using half marathons and marathons as training days was REALLY helpful from a mental standpoint. Yes, you will push too hard during the race portion of the day, but that means the miles you’re doing after the race will really get you into gut-check territory, which is what you’re going to need after you hit the 14th bridge :D (I used MCM as a training race for a December ultra one year, and forced myself to run home after the race [I lived in DC at the time]. Yes, it sucked, but I had to get home, I had to get in a 26+ mile day and I enjoyed the hell out of the race — MUCH more fun then trudging along for 30 miles by myself!!)

    I would do it. Do a couple warm up miles, then the race, then a uhh, five mile cool down. And you can totally run five miles, right? That’s nothing ;) And the race portion of the day will be SO FUN, and you’ll have the added bonus of reminding yourself what it feels like to start out too hard and then have to keep running after you hit the “I want to puke” stage … if you get out of your system now maybe you’ll avoid it at MCM :D
    LizScott´s last post ..Customer Service

    • Thank you. I can’t believe you did MCM as a training run! That sounds both crazy and awesome. I think the comparison of doing the race and adding on miles to the hit the wall/I want to puke stage of the marathon is a great one – one that I didn’t even think about! Definitely lends more weight to the decision to just do it.

  14. So your cons list looks longer than your pros list, but if you were me, I’d probably do the half with some w/u & c/d miles as a long run. You admit yourself that you are enjoying racing & running fast, so why would you quit that now? Make this your summer of insane-o races, and keep it up. While MCM may not be your best or more efficiently trained-for marathon ever, you’ll walk away from it knowing you had the best summer of running ever. No regrets.

  15. This post couldn’t come at a better time! I’m currently facing the exact same situation. I’m running Marine Corps as well, but this is my first marathon. My 20-miler is scheduled on the day of the Army 10-miler here in DC. It’s my all-time favorite race to run. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do because I’m like you, I love to RACE races, and trying to stay at my training pace so I can get all 20 miles in and not kill myself is stressing me out. Since this is my first 20-miler I want to set myself up for success.

    I’m afraid I’ll push it too much during the Army. My plan right now is to try and run 10 before the race starts, but I don’t like the idea of taking an hour between the 2 legs.

    I know there’s not right or wrong answer to this. It is good for me to know though that I’m not the only one struggling with such a dilemma!
    Steph @ Running in the Kitchen´s last post ..Family night.

    • Good luck with whatever you end up deciding! Obviously I know how hard it is to pass on races – especially when it’s one that you already know you love. But I will just say this – are you planning on only doing one 20-miler? If not, disregard what I’m saying (haha), but if you ARE only going to do one, I would just put in a plug for trying to do it without breaks, if you can. So if you want to do the race, try to finish the run right before the gun, or run the race and then just keep on going. I think it would be better to run 20 miles on your own than take an hour between the two legs, not just for the physical toughness it gives you but for the mental strength as well.

      If I do the race on Saturday, I’ll also do one 20-miler on my own that I run straight through. I would be nervous to run a marathon without having done that. But I know everyone’s different and responds best to different training styles, so what’s best for me might not be best for you. That’s just my two-cents!

      Like I said before – good luck!! And hopefully I’ll see you at MCM!

      • Thanks Lauren. My training plan only calls for one 20-miler (might need to rethink that if I run another one!). What I am most concerned about is definitely more the mental strength than the physical capability as you pointed out. I still have a couple weeks to weigh my options but I’m leaning more and more towards passing on the Army this year as the MCM is my highest running priority right now. Having feedback from a seasoned marathon runner is so helpful! Thanks for your response. Hope to see you at MCM as well!!!!

  16. I would definitely do the race! I’m doing the All Women and One Lucky Guy Half in November as my last long run before the Philly half-marathon. I wish I could have gotten more!

    You should have run the Nahant 30k. A perfect and challenging course to work into marathon training!

    • I thought about doing that one! But it just seemed hard to get to from my house (even though it probably would’ve been fine) and it was the week before Reach the Beach relay, so I was nervous about the timing. But of course now that it’s over, I wish I had done it!

  17. Do the race and top it off with a 7 mile cool-down! If there are pace groups maybe try to stick with the pace group that is closer to your training pace? Also, where did you get that cuuuuute I heart 26.2 shirt?!
    Mollyberries´s last post ..NYC Marathon Training Update

  18. Race, it looks “wicked” fun. Plus, you won’t have the dread feeling of the long run. The race will take the majority of your mileage. Plus, if you pay the fee you aren’t going to find an excuse to get out of it usually. Wear a costume too!

  19. Go for the race! You said yourself you are dreading long and lonely miles. BUT, make a deal with yourself. Allow yourself to register only if you slow down and remember you still have 7 miles to run after the race. Win-win :) Have fun!!!!
    Kristy@RunTheLongRoad´s last post ..A Walk Down Memory Lane

  20. It sounds like you just need a change. Race your heart out and then go back to those long slower runs. Afterall, speed is the first thing to go as you age.
    Jessica @ Early AM Runner´s last post ..Dang Lactic Acid

  21. I’m in the same position you are…I am running my first marathon on Oct 16th, and am scheduled to run 20 miles this Sat., but some good friends are putting on a half marathon Sunday! I’m doing the race, and my dad is meeting me at the finish to do 7 more…it’s the best of both worlds! So I say RACE!

  22. Enjoy the speedy runs while you can! If your weekly mileage is above 50 I’m sure you’ll be fine with all of your past experience.
    Rebecca´s last post ..High School is Really Stressing Me Out!

  23. I’m running MCM, too! It’s my first full marathon, and I’m really nervous about it. (I’ve had a back injury this summer, so I will have to do intervals to get through the race since my training has been really limited.) I am running a half next weekend, which I hope will give me some more confidence going into the race, but I’m REALLY excited for my first marathon!
    Amanda @ Running On Waffles´s last post ..Catching My Breath

  24. My vote would be to save the money on the race (unless, say, it’s REALLY cheap) and travel time and come up with a “reward” for getting 20 miles done on your own. Are there other races coming up that you could incorporate another 20 into?

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