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Avoid My Mistake- Run Your First Race

I recently overcame my own mental hurdles to running and hope you will use my lessons learned to run your first race. I’ve always been envious of the motivation and ability of people who run marathons and half marathons. I grew up playing soccer and was used to doing a lot of running during games. But I’d never been able to motivate myself to run an organized race.

My First Race Attempt Fails

I spent a year teaching English in one of the more rural parts of Thailand near Khon Kaen. I was a part of the Fulbright Program that sent 20 US teachers to schools throughout Thailand to teach English. The previous teacher at my school ran the annual Khon Kaen half-marathon. Following in his footsteps, three other teachers and I decided we would sign up for the half marathon. About a month before the race, two people dropped out due to injuries, leaving just two of us to run.

In preparation, I was running relatively frequently. Yet the most miles I had really ran was just over 6 so I was starting to get nervous. The week before the reace, I ran 8 miles, the furthest I had ever run. I felt good but was still nervous as I was short more than 5 miles for the half marathon.

The day before the race the one other runner informed me he wasn’t going to race. Regardless we picked up our race packets just in case. We ended up staying at my house which was located in the middle of nowhere without good public transportation.

I used the remoteness of my house as an excuse to not run the race. Reflecting back I made an immature decision and did not take ownership of my own fear. It is one of my biggest regrets for not believing in myself that I could run it alone.

The lesson

I learned a lot about myself from that experience and my need for social inclusion and the desire to share experiences despite a half marathon is very much an individual physical challenge. In 2015 I failed but this brings me to the end of 2017 when a group of friends decided to run a 5-mile Tough Mudder. This is a run with muddy obstacles combining jogging through trails with light army-style drills and American Ninja Warrior type obstacles. This was my chance to get into running races and capitalizing on my want for running a physical race but also for the social aspect. The race was incredibly fun and afterward, I wished we had signed up for the 10-mile course!

Round 2

I immediately signed up for a Spartan race (a competitor to Tough Mudder). Spartan races are longer, include more obstacles, and require you to do penalty burpees if you fail to overcome an obstacle. I was only able to convince one friend to sign up for it. Leading up to that race I wanted to have run 12 miles so I know what it felt like and ended up running (just around my neighborhood) a half marathon. Despite how tough it was, I felt good afterward. The Spartan race was more challenging for 2 reasons.

  1. The Length – it was longer and the Spartan Races take it more seriously
  2. The weather – it was quite chilly which made it different than the Tough Mudder
Paul and I carrying buckets full of rocks

The Spartan race was more mental and physical grit than the Tough Mudder each of which was rewarding. For those of you looking to get more physically active or are trying to find new ways of inspiration, these Obstacle Course Races (OCRs) a great place to start. You can much more easily invite your friends and run in a group or even have them come out merely as a spectator (the races place the most interesting obstacles in walking distance for those not running to see). I’ve already signed up for another Spartan race (simply due to location and timing) and will continue to utilize these types of races as a point of motivation for physical activity.

A friend and I after running my first Spartan race

Now go run your first race!

I learned the importance of not getting in your head. Running a 5k, half marathon, or obstacle course race is not nearly as difficult as your mind makes it out to be. Stay determined and believe in yourself. You’ll run your first race in no time with that mentality.

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