From DTRunThis on reddit
“…I think you’d be surprised at how much being in a race setting can really push you to places you’ve never been before. But aside from that, there are general things they provide that draw so much attention. First of all, they are usually certified, which means they have measured the distance and you can confidently say that you ran that far. Secondly, they usually have very good timers, that can officially track your time for you and record it for you afterwards. Thirdly, they provide food/drink/medical aid…just all sorts of things that you may like after a hard effort.
But what I really want to say, is this:
When it’s just you and the clock, you can definitely push yourself and go to the extremes of your abilities. As a professional athlete, I do that on a fairly regular basis with some of my workouts. However, being in a race (at least for me) provides a completely different experience. You arrive, and there are tons of people there…first-timers, veterans, walkers, elites, etc. And most everyone is there to prove to themselves what they can do. Some are trying to run the distance as fast as possible, some are just trying to finish the distance, and some are just there to have fun. But regardless, all that energy and nerves and competitiveness just seeps under your skin… and if you weren’t a little giddy/nervous on the car ride over, you definitely are now.
So what does this have to do with motivation? I think for me, it just primes my nervous system for a herculean effort, for the pain that I’m about to endure, and the glorious relief afterwards. The other added benefit to being in a formal race, comes from the actual word itself.
It’s a RACE. Google defines a race as: “A competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course.”
I think so many people in the running community have kind of forgotten that one part about racing. Not to just finish, but to see how fast you can go. And that is helped by the fact that there are other people on the course that are also trying to go fast. But you want to go faster than them. So you end up in these little competitive bubbles on the race course, where you single out people you want to beat…either ones in front of you, or ones you notice behind you chomping at the bit.
And when the end of the race comes, and you can see the finish line in the distance, that sprint for the finish is more intense when you are chasing somebody down or holding somebody off. In those moments you really get to see how hard you can dig.
That is a real life person there in front of you that is trying to beat you. And that is a tangible and real thing that the clock just can’t provide.”