My Best Running Buddy cheats on me all the time, but I’m totally faithful to her. I run with her on the same day, at the same time, every week. When we’re apart, I’m not out sowing my wild oats with another running buddy, but I know that she runs, with multiple other running buddies, on other days.
This kind of “open relationship” works for us because of our personalities. I joke that I “don’t like people,” but the truth is, I’m an introvert. Other human beings are great, but I draw my energy from solitude and a few, close relationships. So on the days I don’t see my Best Running Buddy (let’s call her BRB), I’m completely content to pound the pavement or hit the gym solo. Actually, going it alone helps me clear my head and prepare for whatever the day will bring.
BRB, on the other hand, enjoys seeing her cadre of other running buddies throughout the week and chatting with them about their lives. She likes people. (This is one of the many reasons I need her in my life.)
We’ve each found a solution that works for our lives and personalities. The importance of finding a routine that works for you is a theme you’ll see in any number of fitness magazines and blogs, so I won’t go into detail about it here. Instead, I’d like to suggest some types of races you might try to fit your personality.
Are you an introvert?
- Try a virtual race. Yes, you actual do the running, but you can have your own event, wherever, and, depending on the race, even whenever you want. You can support a charity, and get all the race swag like a t-shirt and medal, without driving to an event and dealing with crowds.
- If you think that’s a little too much alone time, rest assured that you can go it alone for any race. Check the race rules beforehand to make sure you can wear headphones, if your tunes are important to you. The longer the distance, the longer you can be alone with your thoughts.
Are you an extrovert?
- Check out a relay. Triathlons, half marathons, and other races sometimes give participants an opportunity to run in teams. Come with your posse, and each of you can take a leg of the race, then head to brunch or for drinks afterward.
- Want to commence with the drinks before the running ends, look up your local hashing group. Hashing involves a leader (“hare”) marking a trail that the rest of the group follows. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself stopping multiple times at various watering holes. This is not racing, and the socializing often trumps the running. Come with a thick skin and a sense of adventure.
- Love your gang so much you want to spend the weekend in a van, with limited bathing? You might like the Ragnar race series of two-day, one-night 200 mile relays. (Also consider a multi-day bike race or walk for charity.)
Do you get bored easily?
- I am in this boat. This is why I registered for my first triathlon way back when. I don’t think there are enough podcasts or playlists in the world to convince me to be a long-distance runner. Instead, give me a variety of sports to cram into one race.
- See also, obstacle course races (below).
Do you thrive on unexpected challenges?
- Try an obstacle course race. These races combine a series of separate challenges, with running in between. Many of these also are called “mud runs” because some of the obstacles involve running (shimmying, crawling, sliding, etc.) through mud, as well as climbing walls, mild electric shock, and jumping into icy water. Each course is different, so you won’t know what to expect on race day, and the training should involve running as well as strength. I have not tried one yet because I like order and dislike mud far too much, but these races have garnered dedicated devotees, and I am very curious.
These are just a few options to consider for a new racing challenge. But don’t limit yourself. Just as every personality is unique and complex, there is no cookie-cutter “right” choice for the race that will motivate you. Try whatever interests you, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone.