First-Time Finisher: Races Are Carnivals for the Spandex Set

After completing a recent 10K race, Annie thinks things are looking up for the marathon.

I’ve been doing a lot of bellyaching about racing lately. Someone skimming the headlines of my posts would think I was an unathletic middle schooler, suffering through shuttle runs: “Why are these runs so long?” “But I want to eat pie now.” “Why do we have to do this so early?” “Are we done, yet?”

I’ve detailed ad nauseum the obvious reasons racing is burdensome. Training is time-consuming. It’s expensive. It’s physically exhausting. I’ve spent the past few weeks telling myself that after November 20th, I will remain horizontal until New Year’s.

This past weekend, however, I ran the Run the Bridge race with a friend. For this annual jaunt, runners gather on the Camden side of the Ben Franklin Bridge, run over it toward Philly, then turn around and go up the other way, finishing the 10K through the streets of Camden.

It was a much-needed reminder as to why, exactly, runners put themselves through these shenanigans month after month: they’re fun.

No, I’m serious. Races are like carnivals where you get to walk around in spandex. People dress up in goofy costumes. There’s music. Kids hold up signs like “World’s Fastest Dad.”  The people-watching is world-class. And, my god, the stuff. The free stuff.

I moaned about spending $30 to register for the thing, but I walked away from the finish line with, essentially, a new outfit and full bag of groceries. A brand-new, long-sleeve T-shirt (perfect for these chilly fall jogs), a little track bag and dozens of coupons. Plus, there was a goodie bag of food with a bagel, a box of raisins, Utz sour cream-and-onion chips (my favorite!), a granola bar and a cookie. (For the record, a 10K burns approx. 700 calories; you do the math on that savory swag bag.)

Stretching on the grass, happily chewing on a shred of bagel, I thought, “I have got to do more of these.”

But while I ended the morning full and content, perhaps the best part of the race was the feeling of deficiency it gave me. I’m still fuming over the kid (an 11-year-old boy, I later found from the race results), who torched past me during the last quarter mile of the race. I keep thinking about how if I had just gone ten seconds faster per mile, I could have dropped a whole minute.

So I’m going to find another 10K to run after the marathon is over. Not right away. I’m serious about that month-long fetal position. But now I remember why I like having these goals, these events, to look forward to.

And I’ll be at Run the Bridge again, next year. I really like their T-shirts. And, Corey from Chesco, I’ll be on the look out for you while I’m there …


Research editor Annie Monjar blogs about training for the Philadelphia Marathon each week here on Be Well Philly. Want to catch up on the series? Here are her earlier posts, starting from the beginning:

• Taking the Marathon Dive
• Running a Marathon is @#^%*! Expensive
• The Great iPod Debate
• Knowing When to Take a Day Off
• A Good Trail Is Hard to Find
• Is Yoga Worth It for Runners?
• Group Runs Are for Angry Birds
• Does a Runner’s Diet Matter?
• The Morning Run Conundrum
• Why You Should Care About Pro Runners, Not the Eagles
• Hitting the Marathon-Training Wall
Cue the Race-Day Nightmares