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Longing for a Real Long Road Race Again

In the age of coronavirus, we have all had to give up a lot. Let’s face it, it stinks. We are all disappointed in some way. We understand why though, and this isn’t a complaint about the state of society, it’s simply a statement of what we miss and why. We understand that road races are not the most important thing to be concerned about in today’s world when people are losing their lives due to some damaging virus. Of course, the health and safety of human beings take precedence over absolutely everything. Because the truth is if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Any runner will tell you that, as we run primarily for physical and mental health reasons. Runners are a patient bunch (because who else would train for months on end for 1 single race?) and we know that road races will eventually be back in action – even if in a slightly different racing format to maintain safety with social distancing.

Virtual races that are so common right now just don’t offer the same degree of personal satisfaction in our opinion. We understand why event management companies would want to still hold races as virtual events so they can salvage some revenue and distribute dated swag, but we just can’t bring ourselves to truly enjoy the concept of running around our neighborhood and calling it a real race. To understand what we mean, one has to understand that we run road races for the experience of going somewhere else. We decide to sign up for a race because we want to run THOSE roads with THOSE people on THAT day and time. This is why we love running marathons in each of the 50 states! We enjoy traveling across America to put our feet on the ground, one step after another, for 26.2 miles straight because we want to see THOSE cities and towns and experience the pure joy of following our passion of conquering THOSE road races in EVERY single state of our vast nation.

While running 26.2 miles, we experience a mix of pain and pleasure. Because let’s be real, running 26.2 miles can hurt… um, a lot! But what most people may not understand is that running a marathon can also be a pleasurable experience too whereby all of your senses are stimulated. It’s amazing and everyone should try it at least once! First and foremost, while running, we see so many new and wonderful things and absorb all of these new sights with great pleasure. It makes us happy to experience something completely new every single second during our long-ass trek to the finish line. We see the local people volunteering and see the houses, buildings and landscapes surrounding us. We have felt the hot blistering sun of Arizona, cruised through the Disney parks, made the infamous trek from Hopkinton to Boston, ran along Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of VT, the coastline of Maine, the streets of Dallas, Myrtle Beach coastline, beautiful coast of Rhode Island, climbed San Francisco’s killer hills and Golden Gate Bridge, traversed the city of Hartford, Rocky’s steps in Philadelphia, the Olympic rings in Atlanta, eastern Virginia’s coast, caught a beautiful sunrise near Honolulu’s Diamond Head, saw a dead rattlesnake in Idaho and watched another incredible sunrise on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. So many sights have left an indelible mark on us as we have traveled these places on foot and frankly there is just no way to replicate these sights on the streets of our own monotonous neighborhood!

While running through the French Quarter in New Orleans, we smell bakeries cooking beignets, the scent of evergreen trees while running through the trails of Alaska, the misty rain on the Gulf Coast of Alabama and the smell of saltwater as we trudge up Ocean Boulevard in New Jersey. Every place is completely unique and delivers a sensory fulfilling experience.

In between enjoying our eclectic playlist music of Post Malone, Taylor Swift and Led Zeppelin, we hear the cheers and the roar of the crowd that is so uplifting and delivers a shot of endorphins to all runners. We love hearing the sounds of nature and the environment around us. After finishing our race at the brink of Niagara Falls, we took great delight in hearing the loud, rushing water while the announcer was calling our names. However, the sound of water sure made us have to pee after a quick post-race photo!

And let’s not forget the power of touch. Although not every course is like the Boston Marathon, there are still plenty of courses where people are wanting to give us a high five or have us touch a poster that says “Touch here for POWER!!” This stuff is real as it makes us smile and gives us a real boost to forge ahead even when we feel tired and pained. Real races offer us the ability to see our friends and family on the course and feel the hug of a family member or even long-lost friend that we haven’t seen for years, but just happened to meet up with at an out-of-town race. During the Big Beach Marathon in the pouring rain, encouraging volunteers were giving out lei’s at mile 25. All these little boosts and “touches” along the way are what make road racing so great.

Also every few miles we experience the taste of food and energy gels that we so desperately need to survive the arduous marathon. The taste of Gatorade is a welcomed one especially around mile 15 when thirst is intense and we want to chug (but we shouldn't!) at least a gallon back into our depleted bodies. The volunteers that are handing out water, sports drinks and energy gels are absolute life savers. We are always sure to thank them for their efforts and cheerleading too.

When we run marathons, we completely live in the moment. We live in the good moments when our bodies are on autopilot and we’re feeling like we can run forever. We live in the bad moments when our bodies are tired and achy and can’t go on anymore. However, we are always absorbing and enjoying our surroundings no matter how good or terrible we may feel. We are always so appreciative of being right here, right now as if this is exactly where we are meant to be. We feel a deep gratitude that we were brought here to this very moment to see, hear, smell, taste, touch and experience ALL OF THIS.

During marathons we always think about how much of an effort it takes to train, find a good race, sign up and then make intricate travel plans to make sure we can actually get to the race on the right day and time. It takes a lot of time and money and so much can wrong with even the best laid plans. But that’s also what makes it all so fulfilling. It all comes down to the success of the journey of executing the checklist and the miles while appreciating every single step and sensory-evoking emotion of it. These feelings along with the element of surprise of how each race day will actually evolve is what makes road races intoxicating. Doing all the right things before the race, pushing beyond our comfort zone during the race and knowing we did our best is an incredible feeling. At the end of it all, we are exhausted, happy and can’t wait to do it all over again.

But the final reason a real road race is better is that it has a real start line and real finish line. There is so much nervous energy while waiting in a starting corral that we just cannot wait to unleash on the course. In between shaking out our legs one final time, finding the GPS signal on our watches and thinking about if we have to pee again or not, it’s a crazy, lovely and anxious 10 to 15 minutes that we oddly cherish. Personally, it is always such an emotional experience as we are about to gear up to run 26.2 miles yet again. We love THIS moment. We love that so many other people right next to us love THIS very same moment. It is why marathoners are bonded even if we don’t know each other.

We do it for the competition and the camaraderie and knowing that people will run alongside us for so many miles. Sometimes we see the same people over and over again and sometimes we only see them once at the beginning of the race. Although it is impossible to compute how much this competition and camaraderie actually contributes to a better race performance, we are convinced it helps A LOT!

And we love that real road races have a real finish line. A line to indicate that YES, we motored our bodies all those miles and completed the course with a REAL finish time. We absolutely love racing against ourselves and the clock and grabbing a new PR. All of these things are what make road racing so great. We can’t achieve these same feelings when running alone around our neighborhoods using our GPS watches or timing apps that can be easily paused when we need yet another pee break. It is ALL OF THESE feelings that make us sign up for road race after road race after road race. We WANT to feel these things because it brings us pure joy and we feel alive.

By now you understand why we love REAL road races way more than virtual races. You still can achieve a degree of satisfaction by actually physically running a set distance around your neighborhood, but it doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. There is so much more passion and energy emitted and felt in a real road race. It is personal to everyone and it is within YOU. We long for the day when we can get back to it and when we do, months and maybe years of pent-up nervous energy will be released and set us up for a brand new PR in this brand new society we live in. Good luck to all runners in the future and let’s pray for a safe society and lots of PRs moving forward.

My first sub-4 marathon and passed Pat at mile 24. I was feeling perfect this day. Awesome race & strongest marathon finish for sure!

Cindy McLaughlin is a RRCA Certified Coach and has been running for 35 years at countless road races and completing 30 marathons (28 states) during the past 6 years. She has extensive database, computer programming and data analytics experience that have allowed her to create a unique aggregate of dashboard running data for clients. REACH YOUR PEAK RUNNING LLC is the conduit to deliver products and services that runners are passionate about. Check out our website, our awesome REACH YOUR PEAK BOXES filled with running goodies or drop us a note anytime. We would be glad to talk with you about any of our services or products!


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