Let me take you back to one of the first big race weekends of 2016: As I sat at home watching my friends and social media acquaintances complete their goals at the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, I felt a bit of jealousy seeing them collect their Shiny Metal Objects, excitement as they unveiled their fun costumes (those that made it through the new security procedure, anyway), and a bit of FOMO because I wasn’t in the corrals with them. But more than anything, I think I felt relief that I wasn’t getting ready to run the half marathon.
What I mean is, I learned something about myself in the last year. I learned that my love of SMOs is starting to no longer outweigh my general dislike for running distances longer than 10 miles.
Sure, the compulsion to chase the SMO is still there, and it still guides a lot of my race-related decisions. But it is no longer the overwhelming factor that it used to be.
You see, the 10K to 10-mile distance is my wheelhouse. It’s my happy place. It’s my jam (my lady jam…to quote the movie “Pitch Perfect”).
But the half marathon? That’s several miles beyond my happy place. The last few miles of a race or a long training run are just miserable for me. Sure, I can do the distance, but I’m not having fun doing it anymore. And why should I keep asking my body and mind to do something I hate for mile after mile, when running is something that’s supposed to help me relax and be a fun hobby?
Sometime during the Fall of 2015, I told my husband that I thought I wanted to back off of doing half marathons and instead focus on races that are a little shorter. But I wasn’t sure I could stick with it. Through the holidays as I started to map out my race calendar for the year, I kept putting in placeholders for half marathons. Could I really stick to my plan to not do as many halfs this year? How would I find fun races to do instead? How would I give up the fancy SMOs?
It wasn’t until the 2016 WDW Marathon Weekend that I was sure I could do it. As I watched people posting their half marathon results and medals and pictures, I realized that the race was going on without me…and it was OK. I didn’t need to be there. I wasn’t upset that I hadn’t signed up. I was OK being at home with my family instead of in the crush of the crowd slogging through the final miles of a race that’s longer than my preferred distance.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going cold turkey: I completed the Rebel Challenge at Disneyland’s 2016 Star Wars (Light Side) race weekend, and I am already signed up for the Dark Side Challenge at Disney World’s Star Wars (Dark Side) race weekend in April. And there are a couple of half marathons in the DC-Baltimore metro area that I’ll probably still do because I have friends doing them or because they are on my bucket list. But my drive to sign up for a half marathon every weekend of the Spring and Fall so I can rack up a huge medal rack is no longer as enticing as it once was.
Luckily, I have a great support group who should keep me occupied at shorter distance races to help distract me when my eye starts to wander toward shiny half marathon medals. A number of the ladies in my wine meet-up group are runners and have scheduled official meet-ups at some local races (mostly wine-themed ones…hey, we are loyal to the Vino!). And they also have some great suggestions of other races that I’d never even heard of. I think I’ll have more than enough races to choose from that I can look forward to having great experiences at this year.
Casual Running is a journey, and we’re all at different points in our personal journeys. Right now, I’m at a place where longer distances are no longer as attractive as they once were. That doesn’t mean that I won’t ever go back to them. And it doesn’t make me any less of a runner. But, for now, if I want to be a Happy Casual Runner, I need to give up doing so many half marathons.
So, if you’re in the DC/Baltimore area, I’d love to hear your suggestions for awesome races with distances anywhere from 5K to 10 miles. And if they have an SMO, that’s even better!
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