Racing, Running and Walking Are Different

I was reading the blog Fit For A Year’s post – Run With An Idea #4 – Real Runner’s Don’t Walk and made a long comment over there that I am making into a blog post here.

I love it when others make me think about things like this.

Respect for Others

I have been a runner for 40+ years, at times a faster runner and at times a slower runner and at times a walker.

However, I am a bit old school in my thinking and probably not in step how many feel in today’s world – not because I am an elitist running snob or an a’hole, but because it works for me.

What works for others, works for others and while I respect their opinion, I may not always agree with it.

My Running

I run until I can’t then I walk, once I can run again, I run and when I can’t run further it becomes a walk, not a run. That is the definition I learned back in the Dark Ages and the one I still use.

Running is not walking and walking is not running there is a difference and I know when I do it or when I see it.

It is a lot like the Supreme Court’s definition of pornography, you will know it when you see it.

Races and Running Events are Different

Events: I have also become a big believer in the social side of running, which races and other running related events have become.

For many, it doesn’t matter where you finish or when you finish, as long as you had fun, got to meet other runners and got to swap some lies with some great people. The important thing is that the event becomes a great experience.

I strongly believe that these running events are great for running. Yes you can race a running event, but not everyone will, but that is part of the expectation.

Races: However, in my mind a race is where you do your best to cover the distance as fast as you can. Something where you give your best effort. Socializing is done before or after the race, but during the race you are in a competition to do your best.

Does everyone do this – of course not, but I believe that is the purpose  of races – is to do your best and that best is different for all of us.

My belief about races is the old school runner in me talking and that is what I believe separates a race from a fun run or run/walk event.

So to me it comes down more to how the race or event is advertised, is it being promoted as a race or is it a run/walk or fun run event – there are differences and participants need to think about the intent of the event when they sign-up and their goals for it.

Inspiring Others

Are you inspiring others with your efforts?

Believe it or not spectators, volunteers and other runners do notice when you are out there pushing your limits.

Yes, you do inspire others when they see you working hard to do as well as you can.

I have seen races when the last finisher gets more cheers than the person who “won” the race, because of the effort they gave to just finish.

Racing to me, is not always about the speed with which you cover a distance, but often the effort you give to doing it.

Think about it.

Competing with Who?

When I run in a race, I am not competing so much with others that are running around me, as I am myself. It doesn’t matter whether I am finishing in the front, middle or back of the pack or if I never see a podium (yes I would love seeing an age group win, but those happen by accident or by who didn’t show up – when they occur).

I ask myself – “Did I run as good as I could for the race conditions today?”

If I did I am happy, if not I attempt to figure out what I did wrong and train to correct it next time.

Time Limits

Time limits at races suck!

Sometimes we are giving everything we have that day, shit happens that we didn’t expect, then we are required to get in the meat wagon and have to ride to the finish, even when we don’t want to (been there and done that).

Those days suck – bad!

Yes, I know the reasons for time limits and understand them, but at the same time I don’t like them.

However, if a race does have a time limit, runners and participants have think about those limits ahead of time, know their capabilities and be able to meet that requirement when they toe-up to the starting line.


There is a side to slower finishers (which I have been) or walkers during a race that many participants in races do not stop and thing about, when they sign up or cross the starting line.

The Volunteers. Those important people who help us through the race or running event and deserve a thank you when we go by them, irregardless of whether we are a walker, runner or racer.

They are out there in all kinds of weather, supporting and clapping as the first runner goes by and most of the time are still there clapping when that last runner/walker goes by,

Volunteers who cheer for fast runners, slow runners or walkers (which I have been one of), are they inspired by the efforts they are seeing and commitment to finish or are they dispirited because participants are strolling, running along talking, gabbing and do not seem to be exerting themselves overly much, especially if what they volunteered to help at, is supposed to be a race and it is long past the time limit that was set, but participants are still on the race course, so the volunteers stay to ensure their safety.

I have seen both sides of that fence and I know that the volunteers want to see us have a great time and are glad we are out there doing your best and all that, but they also want to finish their part in the race, get home or go enjoy the post-race celebrations also.

They cannot do that as long as there are people still out on the course.

Think about them too, not just yourself and your personal goals.

The reality is that

Should walkers sign up for races?

I will leave that up to the individual and their beliefs. It is not my place to tell someone they can or cannot do something.

It is a choice they should be able to make, but at the same time knowing that their choice will impact other people as well – not just them.

I love watching others turn into walkers, who then might turn into runners (whatever their pace), who are also passionate about our sport and will support them in any way that I can, even if that does mean waiting around a little or a lot longer than I expected at the end of a race either as a participant or volunteer.

I am all for fitness and having as many take part as possible to be a part of the running communities and getting on the road to fitness (where ever that road leads), but at what point does it stop being running and becomes something different – more an event, than a race?

What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “Racing, Running and Walking Are Different

  1. Personally when I run I don’t walk – though on a tough hill at the end of a very challenging marathon last month I probably would have walked faster than I was ‘running’!

    But that is a personal philosophy that has everything to do with ME and nothing to do with anyone else. So long as someone doesn’t just drop from a quick run to a dead walk directly in front of me I have no problem (which some did in a 5K repeatedly, and it messed my pace because I had to be *done* with him!) – because I believe that a marathon (or 5k, 10k, half, or whatever) is about YOU, and no one else.

    My other personal philosophy is to ‘leave it on the course’ – when I finished my first marathon I was so afraid of bonking that I ran slower than I could and crossed the finish line feeling like I could have kept going. My most recent marathon I really pushed myself – it was torrential downpours, the course was mucky and uneven and very hilly … challenging! It took me the better part of the week to ‘feel right’ and be back to full morning runs. I made mistakes, but I gave my all. Again – that is ME, and only about ME, whatever anyone else chooses to do is up to them … if they want to drink beer, take pictures and socialize and finish in 6+ hours, why should I care. They are always fun to chat with before and after!

    Good point on the volunteers! I mentioned my recent marathon – the slowest finishers were over 8 hours. It was a brutal course where the first person just broke 3 hours and the lead woman didn’t even BQ! And the volunteers were out there in torrential downpours and mud and muck and a forest filled with bugs – and because the course wasn’t very accessible they were also largely the ‘cheering section’. They were amazing – just like the folks at EVERY race I have run. So like you say – be sure to thank them!

  2. Interesting topic! I think walkers can have their place in races, although I think they need to be cognizant of where they line up. If races have time limits, as most do, it’s understandable–lots of money and resources go into shutting roads down for a period of time. So hopefully people understand that and don’t give RDs a tough time. In the end, I personally race races, not run them, but to each his own. I certainly get that lots of others do them as events. I think there is room for everyone, provided everyone is respectful of each other.

  3. I am hesitant to discourage anyone from doing an event because I think it is better to have more people participate, and improve their fitness. That being said, I have worked as a volunteer at events and it can get long waiting for the last person to come through. I think walkers are fine for shorter events, but if you’re doing a half or full marathon, plan to run some.

    • Like you I am hesitant to discourage anyone, but at the same time most people have an idea of their own fitness levels and how long it would take to complete a distance and be considerate of the needs of others as well as their own needs. It is a such a fine line to not discourage someone, from getting out and participating in something that can be such a positive experience.

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