Inside and Outside: The Post-Race Ritual


"You suck 😉 !"

Anyone that's done any racing recognizes that competition comes in two flavors: external and internal. In external competition you're obviously competing against another individual or team, but with internal competition it's just you. On race day, we often deal with both.

The footrace is the about the oldest form of competition there is. But unless you're an elite runner that's in the running to win the event, or a speedster with a chance to win your age group, for most of us these races aren't external competition. They're actually time trials, the "race of truth" as they say in bike racing. It's you against the clock. So these races are really about internal competition. How did you run? Did your average pace improve? Did you set a personal record? Failing those, did it just feel like a good run?

At the same time, the groups of people we run and socialize with are, by and large, very competitive people. You don't train 4 or 5 days a week by yourself, then get up at 6 AM on a Saturday to run 10 miles in the cold and dark, and perhaps rain, if you aren't disciplined, driven, and at least a little competitive.As a result, when you learn of your friend's race results you feel a combination of happiness for their success – and, if they're faster than you, a pang of envy. (Unless they're an elite runner like our local Logan Sherman, whose sustained speed and energy output are so far beyond most folks you have to simply stand back and be astounded.) And no matter how well you do, you're never quite satisfied.

The (tongue in cheek) post-race ritual process goes like this:

The Post-Race Ritual

(Click to enlarge)

(Actually, I prefer to ask "How was your race?" rather than anything quantitative, to give them the option of not bringing up times at all if they weren't happy with it.) You'd think that after so many years of teaching martial arts and watching many of my students equal or surpass me, this envy wouldn't be an issue any more. But though it gets easier with age, asses-and-elbows competition is a fire that's hard to tamp down.


What really makes a difference is the great groups of folks I run with. Like a Venn diagram, the Luke's training program and the Thursday Night Social Run are two different running circles that overlap where some members have had some association with the Plano Luke's Locker running store. Regardless of which group I'm with, they are some of the most positive people I've ever met. After a race, Facebook is awash in runners posting times and experiences, and their peers sending congratulations in all directions.

I've often said that it's a good thing that running is such a social activity, because a race is damned hard work. The Dallas Rock 'n Roll half marathon was windy (20-25 MPH) and cold (wind chill in the 20's). You must get up early, Runners huddling away from the wind in a City Hall Plaza stairwell at 6:30 AM


huddle together out of the wind in your racing clothes trying not to freeze, strip down to the essentials before the race – I saw many lean women shivering uncontrollably before the start – do your best race, then try not to get hypothermia afterward when your clothes are soaked in sweat.

Commiserating with fellow sufferers over a few pints afterwards is every bit as important for recovery as that long drink of chocolate milk.And your congratulations to your fellow runners really are genuine…because you know they're feeling the same emotions you are.