The Magical Mystery of Racing by Patrick Love

patrick love

Patrick is the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs at Rutgers University. He is a faculty member in and advisor to the College Student Affairs Master’s Program at Rutgers and his career in higher education has spanned work in student affairs, academic affairs, and as a professor in college student affairs. He has authored numerous books and articles and his scholarship includes organizational culture, leadership and management issues in student affairs, applying theory to practice, spiritual development and LGBTQ issues. Patrick has varied outside interests including marathon running (he has qualified for and run the Boston Marathon)!!!!!!


I believe everyone needs a little magic in their lives, a little bit of something unexplainable. Our lives may not be very predictable, but most of the events in them are explainable, even if just in retrospect. Racing is one of those magical, unexplainable things that can be easily inserted into your #safit life. People who have participated in running races know the magic of racing, and I am not talking about how you mysteriously need to use the restroom facilities 3-5 times the morning of a race (although that is pretty incredible!).

Racing is not just running faster than you normally run; it is an entirely different experience because of the magic that happens. One of the things that occurs is that all the aches and pains you were experiencing in the weeks leading up to the race disappear when you step to the starting line. Go ahead, ask that friend who was complaining about her knee/ankle/hip/hamstring during the week before the race about how it felt during the race. “Oh, it was fine,” she will reply nonchalantly. Magic! So, if fear of turning an ache into an injury is holding you back from racing, don’t let it, because it will disappear on race day.

Another magical thing is that it is impossible to simulate race conditions, that is, you need a race to determine just how fast you can run. Okay, maybe this assertion isn’t so surprising or magical to you. The magic is really in the degree of difference between training paces and racing paces. Even after years of racing there have been times in the weeks leading up to a race where I could barely maintain the training pace and I would think, “How can I ever manage my race pace?” which could be, depending on the length of the race, 30 seconds a mile faster and covering a much longer distance than the training run. Yet, come race day the magic appears and I usually easily meet or exceed the race pace I am hoping for. Racing brings out your best without even having to think about it.

Runners who race encourage each other to “believe in race day.” It means to believe that no matter how crappy you feel today, no matter how much you are struggling, if you have put in the miles and the training, come race day, magically you will perform. Obviously, one of the important phrases in that previous sentence is about training appropriately for the race, because I am talking about magic, not miracles!

So, maybe you started running just to improve your fitness or to help lose some weight. Maybe you never intended to enter a race. Maybe the thought of racing frightens you. Whatever may be holding you back, if you have been out there for at least a few months running a few miles a few times a week, consider entering a local 5K race. I guarantee—it will be a magical experience!




2 comments to The Magical Mystery of Racing by Patrick Love

  • Steven Lerer  says:

    Racing is magical and it is also a good motivator. If I don’t have a race coming up at all times, my training starts to lag. Even if said race is 6 months away it helps me set goals so I perform on race day.

  • Sara  says:

    This post just reaffirmed that it will all be okay. I’m about half way through training for my first 5K, and the thought of race day is TERRIFYING! My partner is an avid runner and he keeps assuring me I will make my goal, no problem. You have articulated what he has been trying to tell me. It’s magic. I will put in the training, and on race day it will happen. Thank you for the encouragement and the belief in magic.

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