I have a list of items that I believe everyone should do at least once in their lives.
Running a race is one of those items.
You don’t have to win to check off this item. All you have to do is finish a competitive race where you have a bib number, there are other people running all around you, and there’s a finish line with a time clock. All of these things are necessary. It’s for several reasons. Running with others will not only hold you accountable, but push you to go harder. Having a bib number means you invested money and committed to the event, which makes it harder to back out. The time clock is necessary to give you a starting point, your own first personal best to try to beat, should you enjoy the activity.
(That’s me with the afro wig. My idea is that if I can’t win, I may as well stick out. I’ve also been known to race in a kilt.)
Running in a race is a necessary life event that forces you to challenge yourself in a physical manner. I consider a 5K distance to be the absolute minimum. My hope is that you’d enjoy it so much that you run more 5K’s, look for more challenging 5K’s like mud runs, or even choose longer events to try out. My hope is that by running and feeling the irony of a solitary sport in the cameraderie of the pack will help you in other areas and prove to you that a challenge is something to be won and not fled from.
5K- My wife once ran a 5K with all three of our kids in tow. She carried one, pushed the other in a stroller, and dragged the other one. I’m glad I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t have had the patience she showed during that 3.2 miles.
10K- My severely handicapped arthritic mom ran this distance as part of a marathon relay group I once organized. She rocked it!
13.1 miles (half marathon distance)- My good friend, coffee nut, and Free Agent mentor Kevin Miller runs this distance in the Pike’s Peak Ascent every year. He doesn’t just run the distance. He runs it straight up one of the tallest mountains in Colorado.
26.2 miles (marathon distance)- I finished 2 of these in the same year, one in Alaska and another in South Carolina. I say finished, because despite abyssmal times, I made my way through the finish line under my own steam.
Ultramarathon (usually 50-100 miles or more)- My friend Jen Pharr does this for fun. She’s done it to the extreme, setting speed records on the Appalachian Trail, and enjoys every minute of what many of us would see as mind-numbing, excruciating pain.
There’s no limit to what you can do, but you have to start. If you’ve never run a race before, hop on the Google-verse and find a 5K near you. Don’t even worry about training at this point. Walk the whole thing if you need to.