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How to Run a Stealth Race

By Carin Moonin

Thinking about running a race, but don’t want to tell anyone? Feeling undecided until race day? Considering squandering three figures on an event that may end in three letters (DNS)?

Then you, my friend, are a potential stealth racer.

The stealth racer may have many reasons for his or her clandestine activity. Perhaps she doesn’t feel ready to announce her time or distance goal. Say he doesn’t want to deal with the trash talking that jams in his brain during a finishing kick. Maybe she doesn’t want a parade of people asking, “So what are you training for? You’re not training for anything?! What do you mean you’re not training for anything?! You must be injured. Are you injured? That sure sucks to be injured. Seems like you get injured a lot.”

Sometimes, things are better left unsaid.

Admittedly, it is easier to run a stealth shorter race. A 5k. A 1500. Even a 10k can be hidden easily. But although keeping your half- or full marathon training on the DL seems like a tough endeavor, it’s easier than you think!

Here are some tips if you, too, are considering a stealth race:

- Train alone. You don’t have to explain your race strategy to everyone if you’re not running with anyone.

- If you are codependent or simply tired of your own thoughts for hours on end, explain away your Saturday 22-miler by claiming that you’re simply building up your weekly mileage. Chances are the people you’re running with will be so preoccupied with their own race strategies that they won’t really care about yours.

- Choose your race wisely. Small, under-the-radar races are good. Since no one knows about them, you’re not likely to run into anyone you know. Or choose the lesser-traveled race: In my case, I did the Foot Traffic Flat full marathon, while the majority of the runners/Lizards did the flat half.

- Lie.

- You don’t have to go completely off the grid. Sometimes, it’s necessary to tell one’s spouse/lover/best friend/favorite family member/pet/person who understands your weird rituals. I had to tell my husband Justin—after all, if I was getting up at 4 a.m. on July 4 to drive to Sauvie Island, so was he.

- If you do tell someone, be clear. I’d hinted to Joe that I was running the Flat, and would he mind running me in the last couple miles? But I was also too stealthy in my communication, because he thought I was running the half and not the full. Go forth and be sneaky—but not when you might actually need something from someone. (And Joe, it’s totally fine! No hard feelings. Swear!)

- You will be seen at the start line, the finish line, at many aid stations in between and in the race results. At that point, the jig is up. Muster a smile and a wave if you can. It’ll make you feel better and give ‘em something to talk about. (“I thought she was injured!”)

A stealth race has a goal like any other. I got mine—a Boston qualifier on a morning that was like running into a hairdryer set to “high.” While the reasons for going stealth are many, the purpose remains the same: Race well and be proud.

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