Why Running in Organized Races is a Must (even if you're not a runner!)

A few weekends ago I was running along Toronto’s lakeshore as one of the 8000+ runners who was pounding the pavement as part of the Toronto Waterfront 10k. This was my second time running in the annual Toronto Waterfront run, and probably my 25th organized run overall. Over the last few years, I’ve run in races ranging from 5km to 30km, in Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Waterloo and Orlando, Florida, and at the end of May, I was finally able to check 42.2k off the list as I completed my first full marathon in the nation’s capital.

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Reading that you might think “Oh, she’s a runner. She must be one of those people that enjoy running.” And if I didn’t know me, I’d probably think the same. But honestly, the answer is no. I’m not a ‘runner’ in the traditional sense. But yes, I do enjoy running – most of the time. Let me explain.

For those who know me, they know that I’m not ‘built’ like a runner. I’m not super lean. I’m not super fast. My legs were made for strength, not for endurance. My upper body is built for throwing around weights, not for gliding effortlessly through the air. And I don’t have that effortless running gait that you see in most long-distance runners. But I do enjoy running – the freedom, the challenge, the ability it has to completely tune-out all the BS going on in your life, and the way it makes you feel after an incredible, completely effortless, long run. That feeling – that feeling is addictive.

Although I’m not sure I’ll ever run a marathon again – for me it was more of a bucket list item – I can say that I will always be a runner. You will always find me at community runs, just like the Toronto Waterfront 10k, because although they usually mean early mornings, long waits in the corral, having to use gross washrooms, stressing about what clothes to wear (the old ‘do-I-or-don’t-I wear this extra layer?’), having to figure out bag-check or what to eat for breakfast, and likely, depending on the distance and training, some physical and mental pain, they are always, ALWAYS, worth it when you cross that finish line.

If you are someone who has always contemplated signing yourself up for an organized run, then listen up. Here are my top 5 reasons why running in organized races is a must, and why you should go register for one right now:

1. Motivation to Train

If you’re someone who just does not enjoy running on your own, then an organized race is perfect for you. Once you’ve signed-up for a target race, you are officially ‘in training’. And there’s no better motivator than having to run a race you’ve never completed before.

If joining a running club is a bit intimidating for you, then make a plan to train by yourself or with a friend. (Bonus points if you can also get that friend to register for the same race.) There are hundreds of free training programs available online that will break down exactly what distance to run and how to train during the months or weeks leading up to your target race.

(Nike has some great training plans and are completely free. Bonus!)

2. The Running Community is Incredible

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the running community is seriously INCREDIBLE. Aside from any runners you meet during your training (whether that be from a run club or just regular runners you come across in your neighbourhood during your training runs), when it comes to race day, get ready to be blown away.

From the start-line, all the way along the route, to the last 100m, you will have thousands of people cheering for you. (Depending on the size of the run – some runs are small and so the cheers are smaller. But they still pack a big punch.) And seriously, it’s the MOST uplifting thing. You truly do feel like a badass and that everyone is cheering for you.

And did I mention the signs? Some signs are ‘laugh-out-loud’ funny and I have definitely done just that while running during some of my races. I won’t spoil anything, but signs during races are seriously top- notch.

3. The Runner’s High is Very Much a Real Thing

This is without a doubt. Although you might have to go-through some physical and mental pain to get there, the high you get when you cross the finish line is like no other. You may have had the best run of your life, or the worst run, but the fact that you ran at all and completed a race is reason to be proud and to celebrate your accomplishment. If you’re someone who needs a challenge and something to work towards, then here you go. This will provide you both, plus some pretty great post-race endorphins as well.

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4. Allows you to Give Back

Most runs, if not all, have a charity, or charities, that they are
partnered with. This means that proceeds from the run go towards a selected charity, or some even allow you to select a local charity that you would like to support. If you’re someone who wants to give back more, then this is a great way to do it and gain an awesome experience from it as well. It’s a win-win!

5. They are really fun. Trust me.

If any of you were also at the Toronto Waterfront 10k, then I’m sure you agree; the fun factor is definitely something that needs to be considered here. There is so much excitement, and adrenaline, and nerves, and lots of other emotions that happen on race day. As I’ve said, I’ve completed quite a few runs in my short life and yet I still have all these emotions leading up to my runs. But then you see all of the other people in your corral and you realize you’re not alone. And you see all the thousands of people cheering you on, and you realize that you have your very own cheer squad. And you hear the music and the MC and realize that you have your own hype-man. (Or at least that’s what I think). And then you think about all the delicious food you get to eat afterward, and if that doesn’t pump you up, I don’t know what will. (I’m serious here, the food is the best part.)

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So yes, training for a run takes commitment and dedication and hard, physical, grind-it-out work and maybe even some sacrifices, but I can promise you, the experience you get at the end of all your training is well worth it! So, if you've been contemplating signing up for a run, then consider this your sign – don’t think, just do it. And enjoy every step of the way.

Just for fun, I’ve round-up my favourite all-time runs that I’ve completed:

1. Disney Princesses Half Marathon, Orlando, Florida.

We ran through Epcot & Magic Kingdom. Need I say more?

2. Ottawa Marathon, Ottawa

The route takes you all the way along the Rideau Canal in springtime. It’s beautiful.

3. Nike Women’s Run (15k), Toronto

This one was badass, so it’s too bad they’re not doing it again. It was located on Toronto Island and part of the route took you on the runway of Billy Bishop Airport. Oh, and did I mention that the medals were Tiffany necklaces? Yes, that is correct.

4. Lululemon 10k 2017 & 2018, Toronto

Lululemon just knows how to put on a good run. Plus, in 2017 there was a donut wall at the finish line. Genius.

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5. Sulphur Springs Trail Relay Race (20k), Hamilton

My first trail run and I loved it. The switch up from running on the streets was amazing, plus you feel like a superhero running through the woods.

Runner-up: Women’s Half Marathon, Toronto

This was my first ever half marathon. They had shirtless firefighters working the aid stations and they gave out chocolate at 21km. Well played indeed.