From Kristen

Yes, Size Matters

You can’t see my knees shaking under the water. Credit: Maria Vallejo

When you imagine the perfect race, do you picture yourself running through a huge chute with bleachers full of cheering fans on either side? Do you think of your name being called to step up and accept a medal? I love both of those things, but for me, it’s unlikely that both would happen in the same race.

I’ve done huge races with all the trimmings—bands, announcers, huge food and beer tents at the end. It’s really exciting to be a part of that; you know that, regardless of your personal pace, you’re racing the same course as some super elite athletes, and often, that means there are energetic crowds there to cheer you on.

Lately, though, I’ve been racing events on the other end of the spectrum. Small races. Like, small enough that I won my age group simply because I was the only one in it.

There’s something to be said for these tiny races, too. I mean, don’t get me wrong—a first place finish when there’s nobody else to compete against doesn’t mean the same thing as placing when you’ve got a large pool of people to compete against. Not at all. But, when you’ve pushed yourself and achieved a time you’re proud of, it’s kind of fun to hear your name announced as a first-place winner.

And small races tend to be much more low-key, which can be perfect for someone just starting out. My most recent triathlon was really small, with maybe 20 people. Several of the athletes had never done a tri before, and they definitely seemed to dig the no-pressure feel of the race.

Along those same lines, I competed in my first swim meet a couple of weeks ago, and it was also pretty small. You can read more about that experience here, but considering I was shaking so badly from nerves that I could barely climb up onto the block for my first race, I can’t imagine how I would have felt if my first meet had been a huge event. (That being said, I’m ready for it now. Totally.)

Now, of course, there are negatives to both. A large race, while super exciting, can be a bit overwhelming; even disheartening in some cases. Coming in last in a group of eight or 10 runners doesn’t concern me. Coming in last in a pool of 50, though, can get a girl down. And with a small race, if you’re not great about racing for yourself, it can be a rather anticlimactic experience. In the aforementioned triathlon, I was basically alone for the entire bike and run. I didn’t mind it, to be honest, but I definitely had to work harder to push myself with nobody to pass or stay ahead of.

Do you prefer your races big or small? Or are you a bit of a Goldilocks and like them somewhere in between? —Kristen



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