why we race

I’ve noticed something in the past few years about many of my friends and acquaintances that are around the same age as me.  We have all suddenly developed a desire to compete in some type of physical activity that requires training!  Marathons and half marathons, triathlon, mud runs, bicycle road races, Masters swim meets, even a first 5K; you name it, my friends are training for it.  What is it about this stage in life (mid 30s-40s) that suddenly makes a person have a strong desire to compete in a race that, just a few years ago, was not even a blip on their radar?

Once was the time where men and women were just happy to live vicariously through their children.  They would sign their kids up for that one activity that they had either always wanted to try or had excelled at in the long ago and far off past.  Be it soccer or the violin, the parent would push the child in hopes to fulfill their past dreams.  I’m guessing this is the reason that I now have to sign all sorts of parental code of conduct forms whenever I register my child for a sport.  “I will not set a bad example, I will not embarrass the team, I will not scream at the refs, I will not do anything that will require my child to undergo extensive therapy as an adult” etc. etc.

We seemed to have moved past our children and onto desiring a personal achievement of our own.  There’s got to be some reason!  Perhaps we are bored, have reached what we think is a high or leveling off point in our career, have looked at ourself naked in the mirror, it’s on our bucket list, we are scared that we will never accomplish anything in life, or just want to compete in something in front of our children while they still think we are cool.  While I am not sure of the reason, I am guilty of doing just that!

the starting line

Two September’s ago we were down the shore with some friends.  My friend, earlier that morning, had competed in a triathlon.  I listened to her describe the event and thought, I can do that.  Now I have run for years.  When I was young I would run with my father and then picked it back up when I was first married because I had adopted my 6’2″ husband’s diet which consisted of a lot of ice cream.  I had run a few 5Ks every year, but that was the extent of my racing career.  Caught up in the excitement, I told my friend I would do some triathlons next year.  I was ready to train except for two problems, I did not own a road bike and triathlon involves swimming.  My husband ended up getting me a bike for Christmas, but that still left the swimming.

When I told my dad I was going to do triathlon, he said “I didn’t know you swam.”  Now my parents have a pool where we spend many, many warm summer days , but my definition of swimming is floating around on a raft in the middle of the pool while reading a book, so I guess he did have reason for concern.  But I was motivated; I bought a racing swim suit and hit the pool at our Y.  Now just let me say that there is nothing more ugly and humiliating than a one piece racing swim suit.  It flattens all of the wrong parts, causing other parts to bludge,  and, since it is so tight-fitting, your fat has to escape somewhere and it does so in all the wrong places.  Add a swim cap and goggles and it is pretty scary.  I banned my husband from seeing me in my suit because that was not the image I wanted him to have of me!  Despite this, I did manage toget to the Y often enough that drowning during the race would not be a concern.

I had a great time training for the races.  My friend and I trained together which helped immensely.  We even raced in a half marathon (another friend did the full marathon!) as well, which turned out to be a lot of fun.  I competed in three triathlons last summer and loved every minute of it!  I survived the swimming and ended up finishing the races pretty decently.  So, check it off the bucket list and move on?  Not so fast, because something happens when you compete in events like this…you become addicted!  Now I am taking swimming lessons, looking at ways to upgrade my bike, and subscribe to a triathlon magazine.  I dream of how great it would be to become a professional athelete (just think you spend your days working out, taking naps, and eating a ton of food!).  Plus, there is always more to accomplish.  A faster time, a longer race, a new event; it never ends.

While I may never know the exact reasons that we all are entering these races, I am so glad that we are.  I am really enjoying this time; training and racing, growing friendships and developing new ones, feeling somewhat healthy, and developing a sense of accomplishment.  My two older children now run with me some which makes it all the more fun!  I just know they are future Ironman competitors and, no, I’m not saying that just because I want to live vicariously through them…

at the end of the triathlon

One thought on “why we race

  1. Yes, and I’m proud of you and even envy you! I guess now, with all my aches and pains from years of sport (I think my body is eventually going to come to a screeching halt!), I look longingly back to those days when I too felt “somewhat healthy and proud of my accomplishments”! I guess I am now living vicariously through my own kids! That’s OK though! I’m enjoying every minute of it!


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