According to RunningUSA, more than 18 million people registered for a road race in 2017. That’s a lot of people, and even if you’ve never stepped into a pair of running shoes, you can be one of them.
That’s because entering a race isn’t something reserved only for veteran runners. With distances ranging from 1-mile “fun runs” to 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons, there’s a distance for everyone. In fact, nearly half of all race participants last year ran a 5K.
So if you’re considering entering a race, by all means, go for it. Chances are high you’ll enjoy yourself, and, at the very least, you’ll get some exercise.
Now, here are 10 great things about running a race, from the confidence boost to the carbs.
YOU’LL INCREASE YOUR TRAINING
If you’re a casual runner who enjoys the occasional jaunt around your neighborhood, that’s fine — occasional jaunts are great. But if you’ve signed up for a race, especially one of significant distance, you’ll likely be compelled to increase your training. Soon, your once-per-week runs might increase to two or three times per week. You’ll be better prepared for race day, all while upping the amount of heart-healthy exercise you get each week.
IT HOLDS YOU ACCOUNTABLE
Too hot outside? Too cold? Did you wake up feeling sluggish? There are plenty of reasons to stay in bed and skip your workout, but when a race is looming, those reasons are often overpowered by your will to train. If you don’t put in the miles beforehand, race day could be rough. That’s some good motivation to lace up your shoes and hit the trail. Besides, once you pay that registration fee, there’s no backing out.
YOU MIGHT MAKE SOME FRIENDS
Look at the person to your left. Good, now turn to the person on your right. Both are the type of person who enjoys waking up early to run a race. So, already, you’ve got something in common. Whether you meet someone at your local running club or start up a conversation with the guy beside you at mile 10, fellow runners make for good friends.
IT BUILDS CONFIDENCE
Committing to doing something and then following through leaves you with a real sense of accomplishment. You can then take that confidence into your next race or even into your daily life. Hey, you ran a half-marathon. Surely you can nail that presentation at work.
YOU CAN EXPLORE YOUR CITY
Tired of the same old running routes? Sign up for a race, and you’ll be running on blocked-off city streets, exploring new neighborhoods and otherwise getting acquainted with areas of your hometown you don’t frequently visit. You might find a new favorite route — or even just a new restaurant — you can revisit your next time out.
OR YOU CAN TRAVEL
If you want to stay close to home, sure, sign up for a local race. But if you’d like to combine your run with a little sightseeing, then consider a destination race. It could be California, Hawaii, London, Rome or even the Great Wall of China for its annual marathon. The options are nearly endless, so consider letting your wanderlust or travel bucket list dictate where you’ll be on race day.
IT’S A GREAT EXCUSE TO EAT CARBS
When you’re running, carbs equal energy. So before the race, feel free to load up on rice, pasta, potatoes and other high-carb foods. It’s more than just fun — it’s necessary to keep your muscles fueled on longer runs.
YOU’LL SEE THE RESULTS OF YOUR HARD WORK
One of the best things about racing is the ability to track your progress. Did you run faster or farther than you could months ago when you began training? The answer is probably yes. Relish in that improvement, and acknowledge how your hard work paid off.
YOU CAN SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE CAUSE
Many races include a charitable component, with a portion of registration fees and other proceeds go to support a particular organization or initiative. Sign up for a race that supports a cause you care about, and you’ll be doing good while getting some exercise.
THERE’S AN AFTER-PARTY
Once you’re done running, chances are good you’ll be able to enjoy live music, food, beer, an expo and other well-deserved treats. Every little bit of incentive helps push you toward that finish line.