Terry Elsey asked this question of me a while back. My reaction was similar to Dorothy's when she was asked by Glinda whether she was a good witch or a bad witch. In other words the answer was, "huh?"
It is a good question to ask oneself however. No doubt you need to be a runner before becoming a racer. And no doubt there's nothing wrong with not being a racer. (In other words, not that there's anything wrong with that!) It's a bit like the difference between a runner and a jogger. It's a state of mind.
By the way, I like the saying I saw somewhere that said, if you don't know whether you're jogging or running, go faster.
I suppose you could say I float between being a runner and a racer. Racing only comes to play during races themselves, when the competitive spirit takes over. This is not to say that you need to be in the hunt for a top spot to be a racer - you may just be in competition with a couple others or even with yourself. Of course here's where the definition gets a little more blurry. More than it was before, even.
All this leads, of course, to the story of my most recent race: the On My Own Two Feet Marathon in Kent.
I had run the first half of the race with friends, some of whom were doing only the half marathon. The race was small potatoes. In fact, there were only twenty-something marathoners and eighty-something half-marathoners. But it was for a very good cause: victims of domestic abuse. The Race Director, Melissa Cairns, felt strongly about the subject, and we were all there to support her cause.
After that first half (it was two loops) in the cold rain, Ladd Clifford, Patti Tomasello, and several others were done, and Bob Pokorny, Beth Bugner and I continued on. The time had been slow by my usual standards - 1:53 or thereabouts, but the trails and mud had taken some toll.
As I pulled a little ahead of the others after the half, it dawned on us that no one was coming the other way (on this 1.5 mile stretch). Beth exclaimed, "hey - we could win a marathon!" When we finally did see someone coming, there was only one of him.
For a while I was in the hunt. At least I thought I was. Reality struck when I was passed by a female on the trails section - at about mile 17. I saw her and the lead guy again on a different out and back section of rail trail. They were, despite my best efforts, still pulling away from me.
The rain never stopped, and the trails became slicker and slicker. This is not to mention that I was also getting tireder and tireder. I never gave up on pushing the pace however. But there could be no doubt that I was slowing down in real terms. Even so, I was surprised again when another guy came from behind and passed me at the end of the trail section, with about a mile to go.
We talked a bit, but no matter what I did, I couldn't stay with him.
I finished as the third male with a time of 3:53. Even though it was a slow time, that competitive racing thing felt great while it lasted.
Now if I could only go back to being a runner long enough to run faster. An hour better would do.
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