Rambling Roads: Running vs. Racing

by George A. Hancock

I no longer run road races. The reason is simple. Three herniated back disc issues plus corrective surgery prompted my decision. My last serious road race was on Thanksgiving morning November 24, 2016. I did run in seven road events in 2017. I finished 2016 with 493 lifetime races.

500 is a nice round number. I decided to race or run seven more events to reach the 500 career races mark. The 11th Red Cross 5K held on October 21, 2017 became my 500th race. I was keenly aware after every race, every run that something was wrong. An MRI revealed the issues.

I started road running in 1973 and road racing in 1976. My racing career covered distances from the 5K to the marathon. I ran every day setting several lengthy running streaks.

My race times were fast too. My 10K PR was 33:26. My marathon PR was 2:48:02. I even won several road races. My first road win was a tremendous feeling.

So, do I miss road races? My answer is no. And this answer, without hesitation, is simple. The corrective July 20, 2018 disc surgery was a success. I resumed daily running on September 1, 2018. I worked up to four miles a day and decided to make my weekly mileage total a nice round number, 30 miles a week outside. I’m nearing the two-year mark in my third daily running streak. Plus, as you’re reading this essay, I crossed the 105,000 lifetime miles mark.

OK, what’s the backstory on this month’s essay? The COVID-19 virus has altered, wiped out so many events this year. Many road races were cancelled or postponed. Road events out my way in Greater Johnstown were cancelled. This despite the meager threat posed by the virus here. Our region was spared.

Many runners are upset with the numerous race cancellations, irked that all their training efforts are now wasted. All those miles run in varied weather patterns and now race events are canceled or postponed.

This point really illustrates the difference between runners in the 70s versus runners now. When I started road running in 1973 it was all about the run. The thought then was to get outside and run. Runners believed it was them against, or with, Mother Nature and the road course. People ran because they could.

Running from here to there despite the weather factor was satisfying. The runner did not need an age-group award or participation medal. The goal was completing the weekly mileage in a healthy manner.

I started road racing in 1976. I enjoyed racing and did well right from the start. Of course, I had developed an excellent mileage base. I learned early how to pace myself across Greater Johnstown’s rolling terrain.

I enjoy running every day. This was perhaps the biggest point of my running career. Running was never, ever a chore. I ran outside year-round. I enjoyed the daily changing road scene. Running through the four seasons is breathtaking.

I understand that racing today is a very social activity. I get that. However, occasionally things happen that disturb the normal flow. We need to deal with those issues and move on. Bemoaning a cancellation or postponement on social media is OK. Yet, letting that change disturb or irritate you is unsettling.

The race is cancelled. Your run is not. Is there life after racing? Yes, there is. It’s a very good running life too. So, please continue running. 

My run continues. Remember, run well run smart! Run on!

Editor’s Note: Congratulations, George, on your running milestones! You are a shining example of how running enhances daily life and that road races aren’t the only reason to run. Thank you for your contributions to RG all these years, too. Your voice and your running are an inspiration.FSC

George Hancock running near his home in Western Pennsylvania

Categories: Features


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