Why You Should Race Outside of Your Comfort Zone
For the last five years or so I have been hell-bent on running fast (for me) marathon times. Each year brought me to 1-2 marathon start lines and a slew of shorter distance races such as 10 milers and halfs, but rarely did I line up for anything shorter. I am a creature of habit and comfort and so things stayed that way until the marathon distance really started to beat me up.
After training for and running three marathons in 12 months, I was ready for a serious distance break. Instead of methodically checking off half marathons and pining over fulls, I decided to register for several short and fast races, including a 1-mile road race, the Bend Classic Mile, a completely new distance for me. Was it hard? Yep! Was it terrifying? You betcha! But the short and fast distances also got me out of my comfort zone and improved my relationship with running as a whole.
3 Reasons You Should Race Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Here’s why you should consider racing outside of your comfort zone by running a new distance, a challenging course, a relay race, or anything completely different from your regular running routines.
1. Challenge and Empower Yourself
Racing outside of your comfort zone is a serious challenge! Whether you’re pushing yourself physically in a new distance or mentally on a tough course, getting outside of your comfort zone and rising to meet a new challenge is empowering.
As I geared up for my shorter distance races, especially the mile, I knew that I would be pushing myself physically and mentally. For starters, racing a mile is hard and very different from racing a marathon. It was a huge challenge for my body and my mind, but once I reached the finish line I felt strong, happy, and untouchable. Was I the fastest miler on the course? Definitely not, but I rose to the occasion and met my mile race challenge!
2. Refresh Your Training
If you’re stuck in a racing rut it’s likely that you’re stuck in a training rut, too. Signing up for a different type of race will allow you to change up your training and focus on a new challenge. Have you been perpetually marathon training for the last 5 years like I have? It would be of great benefit to train for and race something shorter!
My training for the mile varied greatly from that of my marathon training plans. Suddenly, I found myself running lots of 200m and 400m workouts after previously focusing on longer 800m or mile repeats. My paces increased and the training load looked completely different while still maintaining a hefty mileage base. The change in training was refreshing; I highly recommend it!
Related: How to Pick a Marathon Training Plan
3. Renew Your Passion
Nothing will renew your passion for your preferred race distances and topography like getting out of your comfort zone. What’s the saying – “You always want what you can’t have”? This will ring true as you prepare for a different type of race and begin to long for your stale training plan or a repeat of the same race.
I have never loved the marathon more than the moment I crossed the finish line of the Bend Classic Mile. My legs were trashed and my lungs were on fire; I ached for the slow burn of the marathon distance, even after previously feeling completely burned out! The mile was a great test of my fitness and a true mental challenge, but the best part was renewing my passion for the distance I love most: the marathon.
I learned so much about myself from racing outside of my comfort zone, I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re feeling bored, burned out, stale, or like you need a reset, it’s time to get outside of your comfort zone!
Get Outside Your Comfort Zone!
Are you in a racing rut? How can you challenge yourself to race outside of your comfort zone? Share in the comments below!