Loops, point-to-point, out and back. These terms were all unknown to me when I started running in 2008. Loops consist of a course that covers the same ground twice. In point-to-point races, you run from one point to another point, covering the distance only once. The out-and-back race is running to a certain point and then around and running back.
My first race, a 5k, was an out and back race. I didn't mind the out-and-back race for a 5k. You run 1.5 miles and then turn around and come back. It's pretty simple. The out-and-back becomes less attractive for longer distances. For instance, the out-and-back half marathon is not a course I would normally seek out to run. But over the years, the out-and back-course has becomes one of my favorites. Here's why: You get to see everyone in the race.
I'm usually a middle-of-the-pack runner. The leaders are usually long gone by the time I finish. So, seeing the first runner headed back to the finish is always a thrill. I'm usually in awe of the first few runners and how fast they are. I always look out for the first female, too. Usually she's hanging in there with some of the faster men. Seeing the leaders always gets my pace going faster. Also, I get to see my friends and give them encouragement. Sometimes, the out-and-back race is the only chance I'll have at seeing some of my friends other than the start and finish lines. I also know that I'm getting closer to my turn around point.
Now, after the turn around is where I really get inspired. I've starting my journey back to the start line and that is really exciting! I can pick up my pace if I'm feeling good. As I continue running back, I see more faces and more friends. Slowly, the pack gets more thinned out, and I start to see the back of the pack. Even though they are towards the back, this is the group I find the most inspiring. They struggle. You see it on their face, maybe in their stride. Maybe there's a slight limp from overcoming an injury or from recovering from an accident. Maybe they are trying to become healthier or trying to lose weight. Maybe they just beat cancer.
I don't know their stories, but I do see their struggle. And it reminds me of my own struggles: ups and downs with my weight, a knee injury, months of physical therapy, lack of confidence. But the beautiful thing about running is that we are always moving forward when we run. We can't look back when we are running ahead. So it is here, on the pavement, we pound out our struggles and our fears. It's a great feeling to run back to the finish, remembering all the fear and worry we conquered along the way. Even though the same ground is covered twice, the journey is never the same when you run out-and-back.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.