As runners, we need to stop using the word slow; stop saying, “I’m a slow runner.” Maybe you’re self-conscience about your pace because you’re new to running, so you feel slower than other runners. Or maybe you’ve been injured and you’re feeling slower than you once were. You may even just want to prepare your running partner for possible stops and slow downs along your run together, so you announce, “I’m slow” like it’s a shield protecting you from any judgment you might receive.
I’ve experienced all of these feelings, but I think it’s important to remember a few things when we start the negative self-talk. We need to remember that we are strong and capable of so much more than we think and it’s not fair to all of our accomplishments to diminish them with the word slow. Remember all the times you were brave enough to take that first step out the door to go for a run; that time you joined a group of strangers for a group run; or that time you signed up for a race distance you never thought you’d be able to run; and that time you ran the farthest you’ve ever run. Yeah, you did all that!
I’d like to make the word slow as blasphemous as the word jogger. As runners, we need to ditch the self-deprecating word “slow.” Let’s ditch the word and stop saying, “I’m a slow runner,” and start saying this instead.
Celebrate Running Accomplishments Unrelated to Speed
Are you a professional runner? Yeah, me neither! Bummer, I know. Then why as normal human being runners are we so obsessed with our pace? Maybe it all stems from high school when our mile time was worth a grade. Maybe we focus on speed because we admire professional athletes on TV whose job it is to defy the odds and be the fastest.
Ultimately, I think it’s our silly desire to be faster that forces us to feel less than perfect when we don’t meet ridiculous speed goals and then use the dirty word slow. Maybe it should be enough that we went for a run when all we wanted was to nap, signed up for a race distance we’ve never done before, joined a running group despite our social anxieties, or ran on a trail that never felt possible.
Here are things we can discuss and celebrate in running that have nothing to do with speed. Let’s talk in terms of:
- Firsts I signed up for my first race!
- Distance I ran 10 miles.
- Time Range I ran for 10 minutes before taking a walk break.
- Goals I have the goal to run four days a week.
- PRs & PBs I beat MY last 5K time!
- Unique I had a twinge in my foot, so I listened to my body and a took a few days off to rest and rehab.
Own Your Pace
From my experience, when other runners ask your what your pace is, they are usually asking for data, not judgment. They want to know, if you can run together. So why is our first reaction to jump into excuses about our speed? “Oh, I’m just recovering from an injury; I’m really slow.” I’ve also heard, “I’m a total newb. I walk a lot. I’m really slow.”
First of all, you’re faster than the people sitting on the couch. Secondly, just own your pace! Say your pace confidently and without qualifying it.
Being slow is a completely relative term—your slow may be my fast. In running, we aim for a personal record (PR) or personal best (PB) for a reason—it’s our very own personal time. So when a someone asks, be proud of your pace. You’ve earned it.
Run Easy, Not Slow
I’ve had family and non-running friends ask me what my mile time is, and I never know how to respond. It’s as if they think that each time I run my ninth grade PE teacher comes out to stand on the sidelines to time each lap I make around the track. Thankfully, running is not like that anymore! Unfortunately, this means I have no idea what my real mile time is. I know that on some days I run easy and some days I run hard. As well there are days that I need to hit race pace for two miles. Other days, I need to finish strong. I even have training days that specify a training zone (Z4 or Z5 mean I’m barely able to squeeze out words like, “Help. Dying. Call. 9. 1. 1.”).
In training, the general rule is that you’ll have a hard workout followed by an easy workout. When talking about your last run, stick to these terms: easy and hard. For example, “Yesterday was my easy run.” Go one step further and talk in terms of distance, but skip the negative part where you say, “I ran a slow 10 miles.” We all know that when you say “easy” you mean it was your personal slower pace, but it doesn’t have the same self-deprecating effect that the word slow has.
And when your family or non-running friends ask your mile time, I suggest going back to owning your pace. They most likely think that your running is badass and won’t know the difference between one pace or another.
Stop Sharing Your Pace
Maybe this sounds contradictory to owning your pace, but hear me out. The term slow is an exclusive term, and running is supposed to be an inclusive sport. When I see runners posting their running pace on social media, I immediately compare my time to theirs. And I usually end up feeling bad about my hard earned pace that doesn’t live up to the person’s much speedier time. These feelings make me want to qualify my pace as slow, because if one runner’s pace is faster than mine, then obviously I’m a slow runner. No! Not true.
Needless to say, I’ve stopped following runners who post their run times regularly on social media, because I don’t need to feel bad about my own pace, my own progress. So unless you’re looking to exclude other runners and make them feel bad about their personal pace, don’t share your time; talk about easy runs, hard runs, distance, speed work, the beautiful view, the strength training you squeezed in, and so on.
There are of course exceptions to this guideline, such as, you’ve just kicked butt and earned a new PR that you want to shout from the rooftops. I’ve even seen runners who bury their paces in posts because they have followers who ask for their training paces. These seem like polite and sensitive ways to represent running as the inclusive sport that it is.
Share Your Runner Vibes…
What would you suggest to help runners like you and me stop saying that horrible, awful word slow?