Fun Run: Sometimes It’s Fun Not To Race

fun run

Photo by Mike Baird

On Saturday in New York City, Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and the U.S.’s Kara Goucher will both run the NYRR New York Mini 10K, the world’s oldest women’s race. Radcliffe is the marathon world record holder and Goucher is an Olympian and up-and-coming marathoner who has placed third in the NYC and Boston marathons.

They’re running the Mini—but not racing it. Both five months pregnant and due on the same day in September, the superstars and friends have decided to treat the historic event as a fun run.

“It’s an excuse for us to get together; a chance to hang together before we get too pregnant to travel,” Goucher told The New York Times. “We are really just running it for fun. Not racing.”

Running a race for fun without “racing” it, is one of the many joys of running. It allows you to soak up all the energy of the community while getting in good run, and it’s way better than slogging out a tempo or other training run by yourself. It’s a great way to run with friends, and it’s also an excellent exercise in restraint. Forcing yourself to hold back—which can be hard amongst the excitement—is good training for your next big race.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to race. I love to push myself and see all my training pay off. But I also love to be out on a course with other runners and take a step back—to enjoy running for running’s sake while surrounded by a few thousand compatriots.

I’ve run a number of races by taking it easy. About 15 percent of the races I’ve finished I did as fun runs for various reasons.

I once did a 10K with a freshly broken toe in order to finish the nine yearly races NYRR requires for members who want to earn an automatic entry into the ING New York City Marathon. I vigorously taped the broken little piggy that “had roast beef” to the little piggy that “stayed home,” and jog-walked the 6.2 miles. It was hard not to start running as everyone passed me by. But while I wanted that entry, I didn’t want to make my toe worse. It was a very good exercise in restraint.

Both times I ran the NYC Marathon, I also ran The Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff the week before the race. I jogged the 5-mile Kickoff at an easy pace as my last “long” run during my taper. Again, it was tough not to take off with all the runners who weren’t doing the marathon. But I had to remind myself to save my legs for the real race the following week. And it paid off come race day. At the start of the marathon, it was tempting to go gangbusters out of the gate—I’d been training for four months and had lots of pent-up energy from the taper. But having practiced holding back just a week before, it was easier to start slow and not get swept up in the mania at the start. Come mile 20, I was certainly glad I’d saved some juice for later.

Just last month, I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon with a friend at a conversational pace because, well, just because we felt like it.

We’d both signed up months before with the intention to race, but as the event drew near, neither one of us had it in us. She’d raced a half-marathon to a personal best just two weeks before. I was at the tail end of a two-week long cold/flu monster, as a result of which I hadn’t run a single step in those two weeks. I was also jet-lagged from a trip to Europe, where I caught the aforementioned cold/flu monster.

So instead of racing, or bailing completely, we decided to treat it like any other long training run—except one with a change of scenery from our usual runs, water stations, and a fantastic finish on Coney Island’s boardwalk. We chatted, we jogged, we took walk breaks, and we finished far slower than our half-marathon best times, which suited us just fine. We were out there just to finish, not to race, and it was a blast. I was surprised by how much fun I had, how fast two hours flew by, and how good I felt at the finish. It was refreshing not to care about getting a PR, good to be back on my legs after two weeks away, and great to enjoy the race atmosphere—the runners, the spectators, the music, the post-race food. It was the most fun I’ve had at a race in a while, largely because I had a friend to share it with.

It seems Radcliffe and Goucher might agree. The trans-Atlantic friends and training partners—Goucher lives in Portland, Ore., and Radcliffe in Monaco—are using the race as an opportunity to run together one more time before the later stage of pregnancy limits their travel.

Radcliffe spent three months in Portland earlier this year training with Goucher. They got the news that they were pregnant within three days of each other and with an identical due date of Sept. 29 no less. Now five months pregnant they’ll reunite at the New York Mini, founded in 1972 as the world’s oldest race for exclusively for women.

It seems the race will also be an exercise in restraint for the pair. Radcliffe told The New York Times they might even ask New York Road Runners president Mary Wittenberg to run with them to make sure they take it easy.

Will they run and gab like my friend and I did? I have no idea. But I love the fact that even elite world-class runners like a little fun run every now and then.

If it’s good enough for Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher, it’s good enough for me.

Karla Bruning is an award-winning journalist and running nerd. She has completed three marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

Karla Bruning

About 

Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.

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06 2010

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