I left a race in the lurch for the first time a few weeks ago, and I felt kind of bad about it afterwards.
No, I didn’t register to run the race and then not show up. Nor did I start the race and then drop out in the middle of it. I crossed the finish line, bolted down a token cup or two of water, and got the heck out of there.
Granted, it was incredibly cold and windy – the sky later actually unleashed snowflurries, in MAY – and in the spirit of “racing light,” all I was wearing at the time was a tank top, shorts, and gloves. And I had places to go and things to do that day. Valid excuses, but still, I felt guilty as I hunched in the shelter of my car, bundled up in my warm-up duds and gobbling a Builder Bar before I zoomed back home.
Usually I love hanging out post-race. I think it’s a terrific social scene. You’re surrounded by people of at least some degree of fitness, who have just completed a race and thus are typically too worn-out to harbor much snobbery, tension, or neuroses. There are free refreshments, and even in some splendid cases, free beer. You can chat with strangers, catch up with old friends, or just sprawl on a comfortable patch of grass in nothing but a sports bra and running shorts and rest reasonably assured that no one will harass you. Even in the inevitable little mash of bodies that happens as soon as the race results get posted, I’ve never in all my years of racing seen any real hostility displayed.
Not everyone shares this feeling. Some runners prefer to just get the race done and then split. In my observations, this has nothing at all to do with speed. Sometimes slower runners finish the task and leave, figuring there’s no point in hanging around for an awards ceremony in which they won’t receive anything (raffles notwithstanding), while some speedsters no doubt already have impressive stashes of plaques, trophies, and other running prizes and don’t want to bother collecting more.
There are also those runners – and again, speed has no bearing on this – who just don’t feel like doing the post-race mingling scene. These folks would frankly probably prefer running the course again to standing around chatting about its challenges, the weather conditions, whether or not they PR’d, what race they’ll do next, etc., etc., etc.
I admit, I have my moments like that. Particularly after an unpleasant race. A perfectly innocent person will try to “talk running” with me and I’ll want to take my free slice of bread or chunk of fruit and shove it in their face. Then maybe send the water or Gatorade or whatever is in the little paper cup in the same direction.
But usually I like to chill, and mentally congratulate myself for the effort, no matter how it turned out. Running is usually a solo activity for me, so it feels nice to bask a little in the company of people who share my enjoyment of the sport.
Think of all the hours of training we put in – why not take some time to savor the fruits?