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Over the last seven years of running marathons and half marathons, I’ve primarily raced with one objective in mind: to have fun. I love using running as an excuse to see a new place and the people I meet on race day have become some of my best lifelong friends. Some might argue that this approach doesn’t technically qualify as “racing,” and maybe they’re right. Rarely have I toed the start line with the laser-focus of setting a PR. I usually prefer to let faster times happen organically.
Of course, sometimes, I have entered races with the intent of setting a new PR or running my fastest for my current fitness level. These races, for me, are not fun. As much as I like the feeling of crossing the finish line with a shiny new PR under my belt, those miles in between the start and the finish when I’m fixated on my GPS watch, grunting with effort and praying for the race to be over? Well, that’s a little less appealing.
As I get ready to run the Prague Marathon in just 3 short days, I find myself wondering if it is possible to chase a goal time and have fun on race day. I’m in better shape than I have been in years, so part of me wonders if chasing a particular time goal is the way to go. After all, I’ve worked for it, right? Why not go out and run my best and just see what happens? On the other hand, it’s Prague. I’ll be visiting one of the world’s most beautiful cities for the first time ever, seeing a new country and experiencing the marathon distance in a way I have never experienced it before. I want to take pictures, high-five little kids and soak in every moment. Will I be able to do that while chasing down a goal time?
I’ve waffled back and forth about which of these objectives is the more important of the two, and I’ve come to a conclusion: They are equally important. While I don’t know if it is actually possible to run for time and run for fun, I plan to give it my best shot this weekend. That means I’ll be setting a challenging time goal that will force me to push myself, but isn’t to the absolute limit of my abilities. It’s a goal I should theoretically be able to accomplish without killing myself, but it will give my fitness a good test. On the other hand, I won’t be so focused on my mile splits that I won’t be able to stop and smell the roses. There will be time for pictures, for cheering and of course, for fun.
While every race has a different goal, for me, the goal is always to cross the finish line with a smile on my face. Whether I accomplish that by running my fastest ever or by making tons of new memories along the course, I’m good either way.