The following conversation occurred the day after I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K (5 miles) on April 7th:
Person A: So how’d you do at the race? What was your time?
Me: Oh, I did great! Better than I thought I would. I’m pretty happy with my time. I did 53:49.
Person A: *smirks and laughs* Did you run longer than an 8K?
Me: Um… no? That was kind of mean.
Person A: Oh, I’m just kidding with you. So you stayed at about an 11 minute pace? That’s kind of slow.
Me: Really? Slow for who?
Person A: Slow for you. You should be faster than that.
Me: Why? What’s wrong with a ten or eleven minute pace?
Person A: Nothing’s wrong with it, I just think you should be faster.
I thought I did pretty good. I was proud of myself and very happy with my time. What’s with the assumption that I should be faster? I encounter this attitude on a daily basis. It seems to be some sort of epidemic in the running world. I work at a running shoe store and pretty much every day, in conversations I have with coworkers or friends, it’s all the same: Do you run “fast”? No? Then you’re not a good runner and you should work on being faster.
There’s a very silent (and sometimes deliberate) peer pressure that beginner runners face when they first start out. Of course, no one wants to be the last runner to cross the finish line at a race while all the volunteers are packing things up. Most of the time, people get into long distance running because they like it or they just want to stay in shape. They joined a running group with some friends and like to run with them because it’s fun and keeps them accountable. Running and racing brings out confidence in some people and they feel more accomplished than ever before… no matter what their pace. And it should ALWAYS be that way.
To me, running becomes a competitive sport, (whether you’re competing with yourself or someone else) and loses it’s appeal when it turns into a speed contest. And the enjoyment of running just for the hell of it, is lost. For the elite runners who win races for a living, that’s another story. But for the ordinary person like me, I lose my passion to run when I start thinking about how I can go faster. And if I don’t beat my time from before, or I check my watch and I’m still at the pace I always run, I get disappointed and angry. My running feels forced and my miles are a burden. Who wants to run like that? I do have a goal to run a 5K in less than 30 minutes, but that’s just to prove to myself that I can. NOT to say I’m fast. And I admire people who are humble about their running accomplishments.
I usually run between a 10 minute and 11 minute mile. I have always stuck with that time bracket no matter what kind of speed workouts I’ve done or how fast I think I’m going. Whenever I check my watch or finishing time at a race, the pace is usually the same. If that makes me “slow”, then that’s fine. I’m still a runner. If my pace gets slower or I decide to incorporate a run/walk method for training or racing, I’m still a runner. I have run and finished 3 marathons. I have countless 5K’s and other race distances under my belt. I’m pretty sure the number of training miles I’ve run have spilled into the thousands. I refuse to let people who just so happen to run at a faster pace than me, and think they are better than me because of that, make me feel like I’m not a runner.
And you shouldn’t either. Get those miles in, run that race, get that medal, smile big, hug your friends and family – who cares if you are a “slow” runner while you do it. You are a runner and you can stand strong in that. And remember…