Coach Tip Tuesday: It’s Okay if You Don’t Do That Race You Signed Up For
Whether it’s in my interactions with my family, friends, or clients, I always aim to be honest; I personally don’t think that dishonesty ever serves anyone well. This week’s conversation is a dose of brutal honesty:
It’s okay if you don’t do the race that you signed up for.
Yes, even if you paid money for it.
Yes, even if you paid a lot of money for it.
Yes, even if you’ve invested a lot of money into the preparation for it (equipment, training plans, coaching, etc.).
Yes, even if you said you were going to do it.
Yes, even if you’ve been posting about doing it on social media.
Yes, even if your friends are racing this same race.
Yes, even if your family and friends have been supporting you throughout your training thus far.
Things change; it’s truly one of the only certainties we have in life. With that, our emotions and feelings can change. What seemed exciting and like a good idea when we signed up may no longer be that. Sometimes we suffer a tremendous personal loss. Sometimes our financial situations change. Other times, our schedules might change in a way that makes including a given race complicated and/or impossible. Sometimes we just don’t feel like it anymore. And you know what? All of this is okay.
One of the saddest things for me to hear an athlete say is “I can’t wait to be done with [insert race here]” or “I just want to get through [insert race here]” or “I can’t wait until [insert race here] is over,” or any other variation of this idea. For 99% of you reading this, endurance sports is not your full-time job that you need to make money to survive or support your family. It is something you engage with and participate in in your leisure time. Do not force yourself to do something that is your hobby. Do not force yourself into spending your limited and valuable free time on something that doesn’t feel good or exciting to you.
Whether we go to a race or not, the money is spent. If the idea of doing the race is causing stress and/or angst and/or indifference, doing the race doesn’t change the fact that the money is spent. So doing it or not doing it: I encourage you to choose the pathway that sparks more joy.
Unpopular opinion warning: If you cannot afford to “lose” the race entry fee you paid, you may not be able to afford to race. If losing the race entry fee makes that significant of an impact on your financial life, that is something that needs to be evaluated and perhaps approached differently. Don’t cause yourself additional stress and/or an unpleasant experience for the sake of money. Money isn’t worth that.
If you feel relief at the idea of not doing the race, that is how you know you should not be doing it. If you’re feeling that sense of relief, what you’re actually feeling is a sense of peace. Choose peace in your life; don’t choose stress and angst.
I’m not just preaching about this; I’ve lived it and am living it. To date, I’ve chosen not to do five A-Races that I signed up for and invested a lot into preparing for: an IRONMAN, two IRONMAN 70.3s, and two marathons (including a World Marathon Major). I’ve experienced first-hand the challenge of letting something that was important to me go. I’ve also experienced the relief and benefit (especially long-term benefit) that came from making that choice.
As a coach, I’ve counseled the athletes I work with to do the same if the situation warrants it. (I’ve actually done this as recently as three weeks ago.) In my opinion, quality coaching is about encouraging what is best for the athlete, whether that means doing or not doing a race and even if what is best for the athlete ultimately involves me or not. Sometimes, athletes need “permission” not to do something they said they were going to do. I’m here to give all of you reading this permission not to if it’s what you feel in your heart is not right or best for you.
Truly. It’s okay if you don’t do that race you signed up for.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.