Pick a goal of any race distance from the 5K to the marathon, and you’ll improve your efficiency as a runner while developing strength and speed.

Dr. George Sheehan, the well-known running writer and author (and longtime contributor to Runner’s World) once said, “the main thing that separates a ‘jogger’ from a runner is a race entry form.”

There’s a lot of truth in what Sheehan said. Once you enter a race, everything changes. You train with a sense of purpose, you learn to test your limits, and discover just how far you can go…

Take it from 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Rory Tunningley: “I race because I like to challenge myself. When I’m racing, I can push myself to the edge and I enjoy seeing how tough I can to be and if I want to keep fighting or give up. On most days I surprise myself and can push myself further then I think.”

Let’s explore more and dig down to why you should race. Here are a handful of reasons you might benefit from racing.

Confidence. If you’re relatively new to running, running a 5K or 10K race is a real confidence booster. It validates all the hard work you’ve put in to get to the starting line, and it changes your outlook on how you perceive yourself.

Improvement. Pick a goal of any race distance from the 5K to the marathon, and you’ll improve your efficiency as a runner while developing strength and speed. Likewise, you’ll pay more attention to your running form as you train for a big race.

Change of course. Let’s face it, we all get caught in a “sameness” cycle of training week after week. Without a race to target, that can go on indefinitely. While routines are good, signing up for a race a couple of months off can really change things up.

Goal setting. Most people enter a race not because they think they can win it, but to achieve personal goals. The act of setting a goal and achieving it can be very gratifying. Witness the happy finishers enjoying post-race festivities, basking in the glow of achievement. It’s a very positive feeling.

And finally, the big one: Motivation. There’s no doubt that once you sign up for a race, everything changes. The very act of committing yourself to race a certain distance serves to motivate your training and running.

“Racing motivates me to train, which honestly is a bit circular because I train so I can race,” says elite runner and former Baylor track ace Cate Barrett.  “But I like having something to work for, to dream about. Especially marathons. The fact that they’re only once every few months at most, and that you can train for a long time for them, makes them a pretty dramatic life narrative. Racing brings up my best and my worst. It’s not just about the times, it’s about the experience. Sometimes I run faster and harder than I ever thought I could, and sometimes it’s slower and even humiliating. I guess I just like feeling something.”

Upcoming Races: Saturday, August 17, at 8:00 a.m., Vern’s No Frills 5K – Race #124, at Berry Springs Park & Preserve, Georgetown. Saturday, August 24, at 8:00 a.m., Camp Agapè Memorial 5K Run at Johnson Park in Marble Falls.