That's the biggest question I get from everyone I know. My parents, my friends, even my wife asks me why I do this to myself. I'm sure its a question that we all get from time to time. Why is it that we push ourselves day in and day out for one day of racing?
The answer for me is...I have no idea.
I honestly have no clue why I do this to myself. Because at some point during every race I always say to myself, "I dont want to do this any more". I always say I dont want to race, dont want to train, dont want to put the hours in. I've even told my parents that if I ever tell them I want to do another race they should remind me that I said it and I'll know I dont want to race again. But once the race is over and about an hour passes, there I am, a few days later, starting the process again. Back on the road running and biking, in the pool swimming, in the gym lifting weights. So for me, there is no good reason as to why I do this.
But as I sit down to write this, here are some possible reasons that I can come up with.
1) I love the competition: I think we all love this to some degree. Now, there are a lot of people out there who just race to see if they can do it, want to say they did a race, choose a goal, or whatever the reason. There is nothing wrong with that. But these are called races, and I love to go out and see who is better than me, and who I can beat. I always want to measure myself against other people. Depending on the size of the race, I want to see if I can place in my age group. I know I'm not the fastest person out there, but I'm usually in the top 10% of my age group, sometimes even higher, so I want to see who's out there that can beat me. It also motivates me for future races. If I know I have a chance to do well, then I'm going to push myself even more. I always want to try to be the best. I know I wont get there, but it keeps driving me to continue to put the hours in and do these races.
2) Health reasons: Let's be honest, how many of us actually love going to the gym, workout out, pushing themselves? I know I dont. But knowing that I have races coming up, I know I have to put the training in. I have to exercise every day, push myself, do the work. So this gives me something to do to continue to be healthy. Its not a main reason I do these races, but I know that if I dont have a race coming up, my workouts slack and I feel worse about myself. I need the external motivation to keep me going. And the fact is, after every race I do, I reward myself with some kind of food which is bad for me. Usually after every marathon, I finish a full 1 lb bag of Peanut M&M's. Thats my reward. So training this much allows me to eat pretty much what I want without feeling guilty.
3) Braggin rights: Not due to competitive reasons, but its nice to say "I did a marathon", or " I ran so and so race". How many times have you been in a conversation and you said something like that and everyone is impressed or wants to ask you a question about your experience? Its a great feeling of accomplishment and recognition. I love being able to tell people my times and talk about it. Its even better if you can have that conversation with another person who did the same race as you and you can talk about that specific race.
4) I want to see how far I can push myself: As I said earlier, at some point during every race no matter how short or long, I say I want to stop and dont want to do these races anymore. Even in a short 5k when I'm pushing to go faster, I want to slow down and just cruise. But yet every time I finish the race. I have yet to have DNF in a race I ran. There have been races where I stopped pushing myself and started to enjoy the race more, but I have still finished each and every race I started. As we all know, it takes a lot of mental toughness to finish races such as marathons and triathlons, so I dont ever want to second guess myself afterwards and say that I could have done more. I want to see what limits I can push my body and mind. There is always another level, so I'm going to continue to see how far I can go.
5) Tshirts, Tshirts, and more Tshirts: I love getting race tshirts. Some races really do it right and give a nice moisture wicking tshirt or long sleeve shirt. Other races just give out cotton tshirts. To me, this is the worst thing to give out. I know cost often dictates what swag is given out, but we're all racing and training, so reward us with a good workout shirt. I cant wear a cotton tshirt to the gym or for a run and be comfortable, so those shirts are the first I give away or donate to charity. But a good race workout shirt I can wear for a treadmill workout or spin workout, or under a jacket when its cold outside is a great memento of that race.
If the race has a creative tshirt or other give away, thats even better. Ive seen races give out visors, shorts, and a variety of other things. As long as I can use it during my training, Im all for it.
6) I get to buy new things: Let's face it, we all need race equipment. Because of this, I get to buy new things and not have to explain them as stupid purchases. Of course that bike computer is important, it tells me how hard Im working on the bike. That new underwater mp3 player, well that helps me during my swim training. New earphones? Yup, earphones get lost and ruined all the time so I keep needing to replace them. And I cant wear the same outfit I have already raced in, so of course a new shirt or Trisuit is needed. Plus, there are so many different light conditions so I need a few pairs of sunglasses or lenses so I can be prepared for whatever the conditions are.
Without racing, I wouldnt be allowed to justify buying all these things. My wife would look at me like I'm wasting money. Of course Im wasting money, but at least this way I can defend my purchases to her. So I love to be able to buy all the new stuff I want because of my races.
So those are a few reasons as to why I race. I'm sure there are more, but let me know why you race. I'd love to hear what makes you lace up your shoes and train. What motivates you?