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The Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Signing Up for a Race

Alison Feller

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to start doing more than just going for daily, untimed five-mile runs along the Hudson River. Beautiful and peaceful as they were, I wanted something more. I wanted to get fast. I wanted to race!

I signed up for New York Road Runners’ 9+1 program, through which you run nine NYRR-sponsored races in one year (and volunteer at one event) and then get guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon the following year. Nine races over the course of 52 weeks? It didn’t seem like such a big deal. (If you're new to racing, onsider one of these 10 Races Perfect for People Just Beginning Running.)

The first two or three races were fun and exciting, but soon I found myself in what felt like constant race-and-recover mode. I was going through the motions, running these races just for the sake of checking them off my list. It felt like I was supposed to be racing every weekend, because that’s what everyone on Instagram was doing! So not only was I running my NYRR races, but I was also running races in Connecticut and the Hamptons. It was exhausting—not to mention expensive!

By the time my ninth qualifying race rolled around, I was completely burned out. After that, I didn’t run another race for an entire year (that hard-earned New York City Marathon!). I ended up taking about two years off from racing regularly, because I never wanted running, training, or racing to feel like a job or a chore. It was supposed to be fun, and as soon as it was anything but, I knew I needed to back off. (Sounds like one of these 10 Unexpected Truths About Running a Marathon.)

Now, if I’m thinking about registering for a race, I ask myself a few important questions before handing over my credit card:

1. Can I realistically train for this race properly—and without risk of injury—given the time frame between now and race day?

2. What else is going on in my life right now? Is adding a race to my schedule something that will add stress to my life, or will it serve as a reprieve from existing stressors?

3. Why do I want to run this race? Is it because I really, truly want to? Is it because I know I’ll have an awesome cheering section? Is the course extra special? Is it on my birthday? Is it because I’ve always wanted to run a half-marathon with all my bridesmaids as part of my bachelorette party? (My non-runner bridesmaids weren’t too keen on that idea!) Or am I merely signing up because it’s a popular race and I feel like I should? (Yes is probably the wrong answer on this one.)

I registered for the Brooklyn Half Marathon because it’s been a very long time—years, in fact—since I’ve all-out trained for and raced a half-marathon. I’ve been focused on the marathon distance, but I want to work toward something that feels a little foreign to me right now. I want to push myself during training and come out on the other side of the finish line feeling happily exhausted.

Plus, I’ll be racing alongside my November Project teammates, and I have so many friends who will be chasing down their own personal records on the course. Oh, and it’ll be my first race in a new age group: the Brooklyn Half falls two weeks after my 30th birthday. I think that earns me an extra glass of bubbly at the finish line, right?

Alison Feller is a writer and editor in New York City. She has completed five marathons, 11 half-marathons, and many shorter distance races. When she’s not writing or on the run, Alison can be found in the yoga studio, on a spin bike, or (on very rare occasions) cycling outdoors with her fiancé. Keep up with Alison on her blog, Ali On The Run, or on Instagram and Twitter @AliOnTheRun1.

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