I’ve never been a fast runner.
My first 5K in 2011 was finished in 37:44. I whittled that down over two years to a 27:42 PR. A good time for me over the past four years is usually a 10K in under an hour and a 5K in under 30 minutes.
During marathon training, people told me I should focus on getting my half-marathon time down instead. But I loved the feeling I got from running farther and farther, instead of fast. I had to stop training with my group because they all left me in their dust. I started my long runs on Sundays an hour earlier than most. I eventually ran the marathon and it took me almost five and a half hours to complete.
I was proud of my marathon, but afterwards I switched gears and started thinking about speed again. I dreamed of whittling that time down by half an hour. I wanted to focus on improving my personal bests, but it wasn’t working.
My body was beaten up and so was my mind. I was getting slower. I ran a 10K in the fall in 58:48 and cried after. I felt stressed and was really negative toward myself.
When you think about, it’s just comical to get that emotional about a pace that is middle- to back-of-the-pack, not to mention light years away from a podium finish. And yet, I still did it. I think we all do.
I started running again three months ago after taking the winter and spring almost completely away from exercise.
I still haven’t worn my Garmin in those three months. I searched my house recently and I think it’s officially lost. The only time I get a sense of my pace is by how much time has elapsed when I check the clock when I get home, or if I’m running on the treadmill.
And judging by those things, I am a lot slower that I used to be and I’m not improving. I can go farther than I could 12 weeks ago, but not faster.
I feel happy when I’m running, and my breathing is calm, but when I try to move my legs faster they just don’t go. If I do pick up the pace I feel panicky and I slow down again. So I don’t bother anymore. I don’t run with a group, I don’t do speedwork; I just trot along on my own.
I am writing this to tell people that running doesn’t always have to be about improving your speed.
I am also writing this to tell myself the same thing.
(When I tell myself it’s OK to be slower, I still don’t always believe it.)
I haven’t given up on my half-marathon training. I am right on track and full of excitement for race day on September 27.
I anticipate a personal worst, but I also anticipate that nervous excitement while laying out my clothes the night before, the sweat and exertion on the course, cheering my friends on when I see them pass by, the pride I will feel when I claim my participation medal, and the giant brunch with my family afterward. For me, that’s what I find fun about running.
I am proud of my running friends who work harder each and every day and keep reaching their goals, whether it be a PR or a BQ. But it’s not for everyone. It’s OK if your goals don’t have anything to do with speed.
In the end, we’re all just trying to stay healthy, have a bit of fun, and maybe have something to brag about later on Instagram, right?