Running is one of the best forms of exercise and is very popular all around the country. There is some form of race, be it 5K, marathon, or even an Ultra, just about every weekend of the year somewhere in the country. There are street races, park races, and trail races. Anyone who has participated in these races cannot help but be swept up in the excitement and competition. There is a wide range of athletes: the lean and mean fast runner to the average mid-packer. Before and after the race there are conversations about pace, stride, and times all over the p lace.
The very nature of foot races and the running community in general raises the question of the slow runner. Where do slow runners fit in the mix? What about runners who will never have competitive times? What about the runners who honestly don’t care about their times? It is easy for the slow runners to wonder where they fit in. You may look at the race results and feel discouraged that your time is in the middle or even near the bottom. You may not want to share times with other faster, running friends. It is easy to feel embarrassed.
Well, the truth is that slow runners fill a significant place in the running community. There is no reason to feel embarrassed and sub-standard. Here are just a few reasons to put down your watch and go out for your slow, plodding run.
1. You are actually going out the door and running.
You are making the effort. You are getting off the couch, turning off the TV, and doing something in the great outdoors. You may not be getting anywhere quickly but you are getting there. You are still in the minority. It may not feel that way especially if you live in a town with a very active running community but in the grand scheme of this country and even the world you are special. The simple act of putting on running shoes and using them to run puts you in a very small percentage of the population.
2. It doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow. Running still feels good.
Running is probably the best way to clear your head and calm your emotions. Have a frustrating, emotional day? Go out for a run, let those endorphins flow, and you will come back thinking more clearly and your mood will be greatly lifted. Slow runners still reap those benefits. As a matter of fact, slow runners have more time to process their thoughts and savor the experience and scenery.
3. Slow runners can savor the race experience and not worry about finishing exhausted and out of breath.
It is not an uncommon scene. The fast runners take off from the starting line like a bolts of lightning, run the race, cross the finish line with grimaces on their faces, and then completely collapse on the curb from complete exhaustion. Slow runners, on the other hand, can take their time to chat with friends and enjoy the scenery. There is no pressure. The race is a good excuse to get out on a Saturday morning, get in a good run, and earn a t-shirt in the process. Slow runners can pace new runners and help them to the finish line. There is nothing like helping a new runner finish a first race. Finally, a conservative pace allows you to finish the race in good shape with plenty of energy to spare for celebrating later.
4. Slow runners need not feel the pressure to perform.
Fast times and winning races is reserved for the elites. They can feel the pressure to perform from the inside and out. They can spend their time doing speed work, hill repeats, and tempo runs to shave seconds off their time. Slow runners, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about such things. The pressure is off. Running is merely a way to seek personal improvement. Pursuing faster times has its time and place as a way to measure improvement and overall fitness. But, running for slow ones is a competition against self and no one else.
5. Since slow runners do not focus on time they can focus on distance.
Slow runners already know what it is like to go out for a few hours at a time to achieve certain distances. Since the pace is naturally conservative they can keep going and going. Instead of pursuing faster times at the 5 or 10K why not pursue a marathon? Already done a marathon? Why not train for an Ultra race? Finishing such races requires slower paces. Forget times and focus on endurance. Your mental well-being will thank you for it.
6. Finally, You are still a RUNNER!!
No matter what anyone says, you are still a runner. Some may call you a jogger or even a plodder, but the simple act of putting on running shoes, going out the door, and actually running makes you a runner. No one can take that away from you. Don’t listen to the fast runners who believe that is where it all is. No. Fast runners have their place and so do slow runners. We are all runners. Embrace it and go out for a run.