The 5k sounds fun, but I‘m not paying for an ugly t-shirt by Bill Heinrich



Bill Heinrich is a Student Affairs assessment type and is pursuing doctoral studies in higher education at a large Midwest university.  As a life-long adventurer, his Student Affairs, Outdoor Leadership, and Adventure Education work have helped him encounter all kinds of mistakes from which to learn.



I finished the “Lizard Lunge 5k” (not the real name) at my campus last weekend.  For those of you who are approaching your first 5k, I’m proud of you!  Keep on running!  On another end of the citizen running/racing arc is the question of cost.  It’s October and my second, and last, paid-for or bibbed run of the year for me.  As I unpinned the race-bib from my shirt after the run, I thought about all the event bibs I’ve acquired over the years.  So many that one could wallpaper a man cave with them (if one ever has a man cave). I saved bibs from my century bike rides in the 90’s, and running races, marathons, triathlons, ultra-marathons, adventure races, cyclocross, and cross country ski races since then.  Bibs are the original documents of my archive. Thanks to the campus credit union and career services office, I didn’t pay out of pocket for my bib this last time, but all the other ones cost real money.

In previous years when I wanted to enter a race, I did.  With expendable income, I would simply sign up and pay online.  I put events on the calendar as an external motivator to train.  I thought that with a goal I’d be motivated to do my regular workouts.  I found excitement in bigger events, making the planning part of the fun!  And it worked (except for finishing last in the Scott Tinley Off-Road Triathlon the week after opening residence halls).  When I met my partner (also a runner) in 2006, races became part of a beautiful, lifelong friendship!  Whenever I told her that I was doing a race, she would encourage it, and I’d do the same for her.  We even have a “spectator kit” that has fun hats, beads and noisemakers (hint: More Cowbell)!

So after a few years of marriage, moving, enrolling in graduate school, our first kiddo, and a house, the idea of casually entering races has transitioned to a very careful selection process for us both.  With all these other big decisions, we’ve decided to watch the pennies and dollars formerly spent on races much more carefully.  Frequent and sometimes expensive races have become a line item we just can’t afford given our other choices.

While race bibs cost money, they’re just the start of the fitness economy.  The dollars that we spent on race entries also meant buying shoes, gear, Gu, and most significantly, travel to and from (desirable) destinations.  And since we’ve both done a number of races, the thrill of entering a race for its own sake is long gone.  Now we plan our fitness goals carefully with the rest of our lives when budgeting for the year. It turns out that fitness goals include both time and financial commitment.

On the down side of not entering races, my regular training has lost some of the ebb and flow excitement of training for a big event.  On the upside, I have become more self-motivated to run. The adrenaline rush from the Lizard Lunge was a nice surprise coming from a 5k with zero financial outlay and very little planning.  For perspective, this is a departure.  In probably my busiest race year to date, 2008, I soloed the Pole-Pedal-Paddle, 8 hr., 12 hr. and 24 hr. adventure races, a half-marathon, two Olympic-distance triathlons, and one a half-ironman triathlon. I also took several 4-5 day winter mountaineering trips, got married, and voyaged/worked on Semester-at-Sea for 108 days.  So at this week’s 5k when I actually got nervous, my partner chuckled at that novelty.  Her good humor calmed me down and I had a good run, meeting my goal relative to my training.

Finance, Fitness, and Fun!

Since I’m busy with other endeavors and entering races is a selective process, I now ask questions and seek the most “bang for my buck” weighing the pros and cons across three categories before I enter a race: Finance, Fitness, and Fun!  No one of these is a deal breaker, and each person will have a unique perspective on these points.  These are just some questions to ask.

Finance: Can I drive (not fly) to the race?  Do I need a hotel or can I camp?  Or can I enter a race during a trip that work paid for? Can I pay someone to help me up the hills? How much does the race entry cost?

Fitness: Is this race the right distance to keep me training for a while (my fitness)? Is the race well organized (race fitness)? How steep are the hills? Is there any good swag involved (my partner is partial to the Tiffany jewelry after the Nike Women’s events)?  What does the T-shirt look like?

Fun: Is the course interesting somehow?  Is it aesthetically pleasing? Is this a trail run?  Are there down-hills on the other side of the up-hills? Are any of my friends/family members racing? Or is this a place I haven’t been before (and I want to go)?

I’m happy to see a proliferation of 5k and 10k races hosted by every major student organization and fruit/vegetable festival in my agricultural state.  These races tell me that running is on an up swing and that is good for collective fitness.  But it can be overwhelming to see the event calendar and try to decide which one might be the right race.  I’ve made some bad choices in the past.  That being said, I’ll never turn down a free race bib, and I’m still conditioning and running my weekly miles.  And now-a-days, I’m choosing extra carefully where I spend my energy, time, and money.

Here is a short list of my top choices:

  • My favorite fitness activity for burning calories: cross country/xc skate skiing.
  • My favorite race for aesthetics: Wild Boar ½ Marathon Trail Run-Bolinas, CA
  • My most fun (bibbed) event ever: Pole-Pedal-Paddle- Bend, OR

See you out there!


Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

9 + twelve =