You Don't Have To Treat It Like Work

Raising money once a year is great. So is pushing yourself to the limit. But today's racing culture is all about the fun.

Expats compete in a 10K in Monrovia, Liberia.     Photo: AP

To be sure, there are some awesome charity events out there. Last year, the Boston and New York Marathons raised $40 million for nonprofits, and since 1988, Team in Training, the fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, has brought in $1.4 billion. There’s also no denying the personal satisfaction ­derived from pushing your limits for ten months to earn a new personal ­record in the event of your choice.

But while we admire the goal ­setting and the philanthropy, today’s competitive landscape—with its ­rowdy obstacle courses, diverse cycling events, unsanctioned running and mountain-biking competitions, and demanding winter races—can make signing up for a single ­annual fundraiser seem like hitting the ski slopes once a year.

Legions of amateur athletes are entering a dozen or more races annually—in some instances, two or three a month. Yes, the events are challenging. And nothing provides that extra bit of training motivation like a series of races blocked out on the calendar.

Meanwhile, race organizers are ­retooling events to make them more fun, offering swag (like Warrior Dash’s boast-worthy viking helmets), placing emcees along the course rather than just at the end, and offering ­music and free beer at the finish.

At Central California’s Wildflower Triathlon, 35,000 spectators and athletes camp out on the shores of Lake San Antonio for the weekend, heckle race participants, and consume plenty of libations at night. "It’s dirty, it’s hard—there’s no slickness about it," says three-time winner Jesse Thomas. "You show up with your friends and family, you compete, you push yourself, and then you go celebrate a little too much. It’s a microcosm of what life should be about." We couldn’t agree more.

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