On the Run: Top Benefits of Running Races

April 9, 2015

Why Race?

By Clint Cherepa

Photo at right: Bellevue’s Michael Linscott runs in the Antelop Canyon Ultra. Photo courtesy of Jeff Genova Photography


Many run so they can race, but some are leery of the endeavor. Whether you run one mile or 50, it is an exhilarating experience.

“The race is the beauty part,” said cardiologist and medical editor for Runner’s World, Dr. George Sheehan (1918 –1993). One of his eight books, Running & Being: The Total Experience, became a New York Times best seller. According to Sheehan, “the time you put it all together is the race.”


Racing brings the running community together and forges new friendships. Running is unique in the way that it allows beginners and professionals to share the same space, and at times run head-to-head.

Eric Bone founded Northwest Trail Runs which offers events ranging from 4k to 100k mostly in western Washington. He has represented various Seattle running clubs and teams at local, regional and occasionally, national races.

“Racing is better when more people are doing it, so each person who races enhances the experience for others,” said Bone. “It is such a thrill to toe the line against a large field of other runners!”


There is no better motivator than knowing that you have a race in your future. To give the race your best effort, you need to train.

Yassine Diboun, an ultrarunner from Portland, has raced many distances, and regularly places in the top 10.

“Racing has motivated me by having an event on the horizon as something to work toward,” said Diboun. “I love the journey of training for a race, and I enjoy helping others work toward their goals as well.”

The future race date on your calendar will give you a goal. Even if your chances of winning the race are slim, set goals such as winning your age group, beating a friend, getting a personal best or just finishing strong.


Training for a race teaches you how to be more disciplined and to run each day with a purpose in mind. A race can point out weaknesses in your training and give you a base to structure future training.

Bellevue resident, Michael Linscott, ran his first marathon in 2007 and has run 15 more since then. Linscott admits that races keep his running structured, but can also actually eliminate some of the structure by keeping his running fun and spontaneous.

“Smaller races, like a local 10k or 5-mile trail run, are an amazing way to spend a Saturday morning,” he said. “Just getting out, going fast (or not) and having fun.”


Race-day fears are normal—fear of injury, not finishing, or poor performance. Even after years of racing, many seasoned racers get race-day jitters. They have learned how to use these jitters to help them run competitively. Facing these fears at the starting line is the best way to conquer them.

“Simply racing more helps many runners conquer their racing fears,” said Bone.

Measurement of Progress

Your first 10k may not tell you much about your progress, but after a few years of racing, a runner can gauge if he or she is getting faster. Diboun uses races to measure his progress.

“I have done many races multiple times, and I am able to compare different efforts based on splits, and finishing times,” he said. Splits are the difference between how fast or slow a runner completes the previous mile compared with the next one.

Linscott judges the progress of his fitness, final kick and climbing strength with races. He feels that even if it is not his fastest race, at times he pulls something else out of his race effort to use as a measurement.


As a high-caliber racer, Yassine has seen how competition has helped him perform better and he uses this experience to help break records and improve his personal times.

Races lend themselves to runners of all levels. A racer can compete against his or her own personal records, even if he or she is at the back of the pack.

Linscott suggests setting goals for yourself during a race, such as not walking any of the hills or keeping up your pace. He says competition can mean many things. It could be passing the runner in front of you, doing better than last year, or running well for your family and friends.


A progressive runner never stops learning. Introducing racing into your running program provides a platform of wisdom. You learn more about yourself and running in general.

If you are hesitant to toe up at the starting line, take to heart the words of Linscott, “you can’t wait till next week, you can’t hit snooze, you can’t wait for that rain shower to pass. You get out there and race. And you will love it!”

Top 10 Race-Day Tips

1. Don’t get creative: Stick with the same shoes, shorts, shirts, nutrition, etc. that you’ve trained in.

2. Run your own race: Don’t worry about everyone else. Focus on your own pace, hydration and fueling.

3. Support crew: Bring friends and family to cheer you on.

4. Get there early: Plan on being two hours early. This leaves plenty of time for race prep and port-a-potty lines.

5. Be patient: Unless you are in it to win it, flying off the starting line can spell late-race disaster. Best to start slow.

6. Be flexible and adaptable: Be ready to flow with the weather, unexpected crowds or bumps in your race-pace goal.

7. Have goals, not a goal: One goal can easily be missed. Give yourself various time goals, most importantly the goal of finishing.

8. Breathe: Remember to breathe in “calm” and breathe out “stress.”

9. Test yourself: Today is the day to see what kind of speed is inside you.

10. Enjoy it: Soak in the scenery, race vibes and pushing yourself to the limit.

Clint Cherepa is the Running Columnist for OutdoorsNW. He is currently in Nicaragua, where he has been busy training for ultra-marathons and working on a new venture: www.strongerrunners.com