I have finally grown to love running. I love it for the structure it lends to my days, and the simple accomplishment of running farther and faster than I did the week before. I like working toward goals, and my current goal is the Colfax Half Marathon on May 17.

On one of my recent longer runs, however, I started questioning the actual race itself. With money tight, what’s so important about racing in a mob at 6 a.m. when the $50 entry fee could buy half a pair of new running shoes for my blistered toes?

The idea was hatched: What if on the same day that other runners were waking up before the sun and catching a bus to the starting line, I woke up at my normal time, had a leisurely breakfast, and ran my own half marathon on the High Line Canal?

When I tell people of this idea, they stare at me silently like 1) this is too bad of an idea for words, and 2) they know something they can’t tell me.

But it still sounds good to me. I like the idea of running free of crowds and listening to my iPod a bit too loud. I don’t have the competitive gene that needs other people’s energy to push me faster. Instead, my goal is to simply finish the miles without stopping.

So, what is it about races that make them worth their sometimes-hefty entry fees? Does crossing the official finish line create a sense of running self-worth that I don’t know about? Or can we create a marathon stimulus plan for ourselves by avoiding the costs but still pounding out the miles?