Year after year it seems like there is a new set of races to attend. No matter where you live nowadays if you desire to hit a road race it’s entirely attainable every weekend in the good weather months of the year. According to Running USA, growth in road running has been exponential since the 1990s and peaked in 2013. In 2014, Female athletes accounted for 10.7 million finishers nationwide and males represented over 8 million finishers. Overall, there were 18,750,000 finishers in U.S. in 2014 down only 250K from 2013. With the rise in road races and hike in registration fees, it leaves athletes wondering where to prioritize. Not to mention the addition of obstacle course racing, relay races and trail running exploding in popularity.
When I began running in my early twenties, fees didn’t matter and I had the desire to race every weekend no matter the cost (body included). I was young, excited and couldn’t get over the rush received from crushing the streets. Primarily a road specialist, I’ve now found myself (as an athlete) prioritizing quality events over the quantity. With shifts in my career and the opportunity to save money and time for my family, racing has become less important. The difficulty now is deciding which races deserve priority? How many do I need to race in order to keep that rush and enthusiasm?
As recreational athletes, we all race for different reasons, but as we evolve its important to take a deep look at what races really matter and the events that correspond to your long game. Always looking at racing as a metaphor for life, I’ve carefully carved into the athlete I am today. A couple years back I did my first and my last 50 miler (according to my wife at least, ha) all with the motivation of raising money for a little girl named Livia. Livia was born with Broncho Malacia, which is a collapsed bronchial tube requiring Doctor’s to put in a trache tube at birth. She has lived with this condition her entire life so the least I could do was start Racing for Something Greater. Collectively, my friends and family raised over 5K all with this little girl in mind and my willingness to tackle an Ultra run on less than twenty miles a week of training. Out of all my race experiences it has truly been the most memorable, not because of the distance or result, but the purpose behind the event. It was certainly an event that can be added to my legacy.
With my recent move to Brevard, North Carolina, I have stumbled across an amazing cause, the Inheritance of Hope, that has become more important to me as I continue to dive into its mission. Only hearing about this non-profit a month ago, I’ve learned that 1 in 20 children will lose a parent before turning 16. What an unimaginable circumstance for any family. Inheritance of Hope inspires hope in young families facing the loss of a parent and approaches achieving their mission by providing life-changing Legacy Retreats®, Legacy Scholarships, outstanding resources, and individual and group ongoing support. After learning their Story in 4 Minutes or Less, it pushed me to take a closer look at my relationships with my family. How much time am I truly devoting to my loved ones? Can the time be considered quality? I’ve instantly become connected to their vision and I’m excited to share that they will be leading their first Half Marathon on April 30th in conjunction with their already established 5K Legacy Run. This is certainly a race that will leave a legacy every year and a prime example of a race that fits with the fees as the road-racing scene grows greater.
Half-marathons are growing at an annual increase of 4% finishers (2.046 million, another new high) so it’s fantastic to see races popping up with deeper meaning in this market. As I mentioned, my racing career has switched away from solely being results driven or motivated by personal records. At the end of the day I ask myself, why does it really matter if I finish first in my age group or achieve a PR? Yes, these are still important goals, but have an intention for pursuing them. Simultaneously you can positively impact your community with how you approach racing. Too often we forget about that the memories and race experiences, the things that we’ll actually remember. Prioritize your legacy and how you impact the people around you.
– Director of Training, Jeff Ford