Is racing a Selfish endeavor?

by Rebecca on September 5, 2012

“So, do you race for a charity?  Or do you do it, for, you know, selfish reasons?”

Starting Line - 2011 Eugene Marathon

This is a question I was asked recently and one that caught me completely off guard.  How do you respond to that?

“Yep, for purely selfish reasons, actually.”

But more than leaving me red-faced and a bit humiliated, I was thankful that it pushed me onto a trajectory of analyzing just why I race and why I run and whether or not I need to justify it to the rest of the world, or even to my family.

As it is, I only race a handful of times per year, and only once so far this year.  I generally can’t get away for a whole weekend, and sometimes not for a whole morning, as our weekends are packed with kid-centric activities.

In addition, I do not choose to spend the money on races very often, because we live on a very tight budget, and you know the thing about trying to squeeze blood from a stone?  Yeah.  I’m not strong enough to do that yet.

But does that mean I judge women or moms who do race every weekend and in doing so miss weekends here and there with their families, or Junior’s all-area soccer tournament?

Absolutely not.

In fact, I think moms running and racing is extremely healthy for the whole family, whether or not she is raising money for charity while doing so. (I feel a future post coming on.)

But that does not mean that I don’t feel judged if I am not racing in the name of the purple people. I tend to be very hard on myself already, as you can probably tell from my sometimes sadistic training.  In fact, I thought about bagging future races based on this judgment.

But an experience I had over the weekend brought to the forefront the reasons I started training for these selfish races in the first place.

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Youngest had a play date with a friend from one of his extracurricular activities.  The dad was away working his entertainment job that essentially put the mom in the position of single mother.  If you don’t know a lot about the Hollywood lifestyle, I’ll quickly fill you in.

In a nutshell, most of the people behind the scenes in the movie/music/TV business work really long hours for a decent, but not exorbitant amount of money.  They are able to maybe afford to buy 2 to 3 bedroom house in a decent neighborhood, and their wives (or husbands) are able to stay home and raise the kids. But most of these people are almost completely absent from their home lives, as they work 14-hour days and a lot of weekends to make actresses look really good on film or some such other crucial task.

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There are many variations of a stay-at-home parent. 

Some are the kind whose spouses make enough money so that they have a house cleaner, a babysitter so that they can attend their book club meetings, and a support system to fall back on should the kids get sick, etc.  (I wish I was this kind.)

Some are the kind that cannot afford a house cleaner and drop out of events like book club meetings all the time because there is no back up support system at all.  (I think this group is at a higher risk for mental problems and breakdowns.)  You could easily argue that this group needs to put the kids in daycare and get a job.  I have seen many try this and many fail.  Two absent parents?  Fun times.

Some are the kind who spend so much time at  PTA meetings and throwing fundraising parties, that they forget that they ever had kids in the first place. (Oops.)

Be that as it may, I, unfortunately was the kind that did the whole shebang as a one-woman show, and I have scars and a droopy right eye to show for it.  And I was probably really high-risk for mental problems and an impending breakdown (enter running shoes, stage left).

But let us get back to the entertainment widow, as it were.  She had been running the house and minding the whiny children on her own for most likely two weeks or so, without a break (let us assume this for I do not know for sure).  Her right eye wasn’t drooping yet, but I could sense a propensity there.

I lived this life, and still do, though the kids thankfully become more mentally stable as they age (except for the teenagers God help me).

This lovely lady was in the midst of potty training and dealing with tantrums and all of those lovely character-forming developmental stages.  In short, she was IN THE FREAKING TRENCHES!!

I told MFP that seeing that situation gave me a bad case of PTSD, a tic and a huge desire to run 20 miles.  Fast.

I had a similar feeling a few weeks ago when our neighbors threw a party for their 3-year-old.  Most of the attendees’ parents had new babies in tow or were pregnant with their second child.  The sight of the madness, the diapers, the crying, it was all too much. 

I literally made up an excuse and left the party. 

“Why did you leave like that?  So rude!” MFP scolded me later.

“That party brought back memories of all those days and nights when it was just ME and the kids and their crying, etc.  And no one to call for help.  I couldn’t do it, MFP.  I think I really have PTSD!”

“Well just try to get over it before we have grandkids…” 

“Plenty of time for that!”

But being reminded of where I came from and where I’ve been, I suddenly felt completely justified for running races JUST FOR MYSELF.  If races motivate me to run, and running itself keeps my head on straight, then why is racing selfish?  It isn’t!

(Of course if I could organize myself to raise money for the sick in the process that would be crazy amazing, but I’m not quite there yet. I first have to find a bunch of people who I think have enough money to donate.)

Anyway, I suppose there are other, more private (and possibly illegal), ways to keep myself patient and calm with my children.  No?

That I choose to blog about running and racing is a bit over-the-top, I agree.  And the self-portraits?  Honestly

But I have met more than a few readers who have told me that I have inspired them to lace up their shoes and get out there. This gives me chills.  And it makes the awkward factor of having my make-up-less face on the Internet in my booty shorts all worth it.

So, as I have been spilling my thought process regarding the narcissistic nature of racing, I finally came up with a response to the question that sparked this debate in the first place:

“Yes, I do race for selfish reasons!  And you?  Do you raise money for charity to attend the theater?  Really? You do?  That is awesome!”

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What do you think?  Is racing selfish?  Do you feel guilty taking time away from the family to pursue selfish goals?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

stephanie September 5, 2012 at 11:27 am

Such an interseting post. I often feel guilty spending money on races and for taking time away from our precious family time on the weekends to race. But, I need to have at least a few goal races/Saturday mornings away for my sanity. Maybe a couple of times a year? That is why I have started to focus on longer races rather than short, pricey 5ks. But even the long races are so expensive for our budget.

But, thanks for posting this. My husband works 14+ hour days and weekends more often than not. Since we can’t afford a house cleaner, dinners out, a yard man, a lot of our free time together is just taking care of business. With his work, if he stays there long enough there is an opportunity for us to be able to afford vacations, help down the road, but it is down the road and not a guarantee.

So, yes, I race/run for selfish reasons. Because at a time when I am caring for two small children, a house, taking care of meals mostly on my own, I need something for me.

Thanks for your thoughts on this subject. It makes me feel a little less alone knowing there are others like me. Now, if I could just actually squeeze in time to run between my toddler and newborn’s busy schedules and late night/round the clock feedings!

Reply

Rebecca September 5, 2012 at 11:40 am

I was right where you are not very long ago, Stephanie. And it is so important to get out and breathe fresh air and run when you have so much on your plate… I also think that racing a few times a year gives you something to look forward to and makes the hard times less daunting.

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Lauren September 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I have been one of those people most bloggers hate. The kind that always read your blog, but never comment. After a recent conversation I had with my mom about running and exercise, I read this blog post and HAD to comment!

I absolutely do not think racing is selfish! For many women, myself included, running keeps them sane. There eventually comes a point when running for the sake of running is no longer enough and there is a strong urge to start racing. Unfortunately, not all moms get positive support from family, which certainly adds to the guilt factor. I am very lucky to have a hubby and children (even if one of them just sits in a stroller and snacks) who encourage my running. Hubby knows how important running is to my well being and keeping from falling down a depression spiral.

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Rebecca September 6, 2012 at 7:50 am

Lauren,
Thanks for leaving a comment! I agree that running (and racing if it is motivating for you) is extremely important for mental well being. Your husband is a very smart man!

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Vicki September 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Hi Rebecca .. I guess you know my thoughts on this! So you run / race for selfish reasons .. meh, it makes you a better mum ( ooops mom! ) right? That’s hardly selfish!! As I say this I am heading off on Saturday morning for my own special torture with The Stampede for most of the day while Mr FitMum runs the kids to soccer and birthday parties! X

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Rebecca September 6, 2012 at 7:48 am

Good luck in the Stampede…you are totally hard core. Take lots of pics!

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