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August 28, 2010 / elodie kaye

The Case for Racing

It isn’t about the PR.  Or personal triumph, or transcending limits.  A race like the one I ran last week is nothing special to celebrate (even though I did).  As a race, it was a dud.  As a workout however — races are the mother of all workouts.  I ran my quickest 5K tempo of the year after putting my legs through a 10K first.  At the finishing mat, my heart thundered in my ears at 189 beats a minute, about 8 beats shy of my measured maximum.

No coach would ever advise a runner at my level to do a workout like that.  If he did, I’d squirm and flap for a way to get out of it.  And if I tried it, I’d fail, and be crushed.  It’s quite likely I would have failed to execute even if my coach told me to sign up for the race, and plan to run it exactly the way I did.

That is the magic of races.  You will run in the moment and you will find speed, and strength, and tenacity you never suspected.  This can happen even when you are far from a PR.  It can happen while you think you’re having fun.

This week my legs have been tired, but the air they stride through seems thinner.  Racing lights up your nerves, wakes large and tiny muscles that never twitched before.  Some of my easy miles are a little more brisk now.  Partly that’s from firing up new pathways to muscle, but mostly it’s from the confidence of running faster than I thought I could.  Truly believing you are swift will make you swift.  Racing will make you believe.  It will make you extend your scheduled 16-miler to 18, and then to 20.  It’s better than Viagra for your legs.

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