Mile 52: When is Running Worth the Risk?

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When is running worth the risk? This is a question I ask myself and others ask me. I’m willing to bet that it’s a fairly common question with varying answers and opinions. Recently, I faced this question and struggled with my decision process. I could never imagine skipping a race I paid for, but I also couldn’t imagine getting injured at one either. Before I begin let me start by saying that you know yourself better than anyone else and a decision to run any event should be yours and yours alone (in the voice of Olmec from Legends of the Hidden Temple). Do not let outside influences sway your decision either way. In the end the race is all about you and what you wish to achieve from it.

I signed up for the Ugly Sweater Run in Philadelphia, PA on Black Friday because of the great deal they were running. This 5K race in your ugliest holiday sweater was to be held on December 17th at Fairmount Park. Prior to signing up I knew it was a risky move given the time of year. Most December days in southeastern Pennsylvania are cold and there is always a good chance of precipitation. With those variables I still signed up hoping for no precipitation. Fast forward a few weeks and wouldn’t you know snow, rain and ice were in the forecast.

Up until Friday evening I was planning on running Saturday morning. However, in the back of my mind there was a part of me saying “don’t go and stay home.” This is a usual thought on race day, but this was a little more serious. I made the decision to pick up my packet Friday evening, instead of Saturday morning, just in case I chose to stay home. This was my first indication I wasn’t going to make it to the start line. Honestly, the real reason I picked my packet up early was because I wanted the Ugly Sweater Run hat. If I wasn’t going to make it to race day then at least I know I would get the hat that I paid for. OK, so maybe the reason I signed up for the race was because of the hat and all I really wanted was this ugly thing.

I woke up Saturday morning looked outside and texted Cait asking her thoughts. It had snow lightly overnight and just started to change over to a wintry mix. Obviously, not the most ideal conditions for a race or even spending anytime outside. After our discussion I decided to stay home and off the roads. I was able to answer the question: “when is running worth the risk?” It wasn’t worth the risk.

Ultimately, my decision was made on safety. I didn’t think it was safe enough to drive or run. We were facing at least an hour commute to the race and didn’t know anything about the course conditions. Would the course be covered in snow or ice? There were just too many variables with no definitive answers. I cared more about my safety than running three miles and receiving a medal. Also, I wasn’t completely prepared to run in those conditions. I didn’t have the right gear On the contrary, I signed up for a race knowing that these were the conditions I could face. If I wasn’t ready for those conditions then I shouldn’t have registered. It’s a lesson learned. Now I know for next year to either not sign up at all, wait until the last minute or suck it up and race in whatever weather conditions are thrown my way.

I’ve completed OCR’s in extreme heat, cold conditions, the risk of severe weather and heavy rains. For each of those events I weighed the risk factor. I determined that running was worth the risk for each of those. So what was the difference? I got something more out of those races. I’m not talking about race swag or medals. I’m talking about personal accomplishment. I feel accomplished at the end of most races, but I knew I wouldn’t feel that same type of accomplishment at the end of the Ugly Sweater Run. You see this was a fun run. It was untimed and meant to bring people together donned with ugly sweaters and the sweet taste of Kahlua hot cocoa. Getting injured going to, during or even after an event like this is just not worth it. If I’m going to risk injury it most certainly will not be at a “fun run”.

In the end I know I made the right decision and wouldn’t change it. Races are fun and just that.

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