To Race or not to Race

Runners that are relatively new to the sport will probably think I’m talking nonsense. They will say (as I have read in some recent posts) “…a true runner whose motivation comes from his/her heart never quits, runs against himself/herself, runs no matter what. All that and a load of motivational speech that after a while starts to sound senseless or pointless.

This issue came up because when the first Nike Women’s 21k was presented in Mexico last year.

Upon the route presentation a week earlier, showing a truly demanding race route, suddenly lots of runners started to say that they were either injured, had to travel, didn’t have time and began to sell their race numbers. (Yes, unfortunately in Mexico this practice its normal)

And of course, there were others with the opposite point of view posting, yes I can! Read my history, you ought to have determination, I raced while injured, etc. and criticizing the ones who are selling their race numbers as Fashion runners who are just interested in a medal, a t-shirt or just taking the selfie, blah, blah, blah.

Reality is that the route was very demanding and to race or pass on it depends upon many variables.


Fear of failure, of the unknown, of a DNF, of injury, of not being able to make the time goal, of not having enough training or just not meeting other people’s expectations, or our own.

All these fears are common and real, it happens to us all, whether we have been running for a week or 20 years.

There will always be doubts floating around in our heads, and that’s perfectly normal. Welcome to the mere mortal’s world where among other things fear of failure NEVER goes away. Given enough time you’ll learn to control it, but sometimes it will overcome you, such is life.


You have to learn the difference between: I feel awful due to anxiety showing up as physical pain like a headache, stomachache, cold or undefined muscle pain and actual pain from a real injury.

That is to know, when I DO have an injury, a specifically located pain in a knee, hamstring, etc. that doesn’t go away, or I had an accident, and my foot is swollen. A real injury requires you to get REAL.

A poorly treated or unattended injury ALWAYS lead to a chronic injury, no exceptions here. A chronic injury means that it never really goes away, it comes back from time to time and suddenly after seemingly overcoming it, it will come back again. This is the last thing a passionate runner wants.

And we are to blame for that, because “we must run with our heart,” and we end up pushing ourselves beyond our limits.


  • If we feel fear, let’s have faith in ourselves and race.
  • If we are injured, let’s go to the doctor and follow his advice regarding to race or not, there’s no race, medal, or prize that is worth making an injury worst. There always be other races, but there are no replacement muscles (are least not cheap).
  •  If you have not trained adequately, that is, less than 50% of the recommended training sessions, consider run/walk from the first kilometer and on and you will be able to finish it.

Change your FOCUS

Don’t just look at TODAY. ¿how long you want to keep on running? Pushing your body beyond reasonable limits does not help a long-running career.

With only a few years running experience, I thought I had to run all races at my limit, always improve my times and outdo myself, ¿sounds familiar? Guess what? You can race for the sheer pleasure of racing and get a medal.

Who told you that you MUST RUN THE ENTIRE ROUTE and that run/walk is not allowed?

Whether or not this is your first 21k, why must your goal be a personal best? The only person that can judge you, impose rules or limits on yourself it’s you.

I’m very competitive with myself, but I have learned that you CANNOT train or participate in races at your maximum level all the time. Not even Elite pro racers that are paid to run do that.

My motto is “The most important race is tomorrow’s

You won’t harvest what you have not sown, but if you sow too much the land will become infertile.

When you have enough years as a runner, you learn that being cautious, knowledge and a good strategy are key to last many years as a runner. Running with your heart is as romantic and unrealistic as a fairy tale where they live happily ever after.

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RRCA Running Educator, Health & Mindset coach, content creator 22 years running, 200+ races & creating magic at Instarunners

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