No Need for Speed
Quite a few years ago, my parents, 3 brothers, and I began running together once a week. As our endurance and overall health increased, so did our motivation. Feeling inspired, we decided to sign up for our first 5K.
Come race day, we were all nervous, but as it turned out, we shouldn’t have been. All four of us finished and three of us placed in our respective age groups. Of the four of us, I was the only one who didn’t place, coming in somewhere in the bottom half of my category.
What I took away from this experience was not the celebratory feeling of having completed a 5K, but rather the sinking realization that I was slow. I wasn’t quite up to par, speedwise. I had done a lot of training, but it was all for nothing.
For a while, there was a certain amount of embarrassment. I dreaded being passed repeatedly by faster runners. After a while, I stopped running outside and confined my running workouts to the treadmill, where I would throw a towel over the digital display so no one could see just how slow I really was.
Over time, however, I came to realize that I wasn’t alone. In fact, statistics show that marathon runners have been getting slower and slower. I am nowhere near the bottom of the pack, but that’s not the point.
The point is that feeling slow is something that every runner faces at one point or another. Labeling yourself a “slow runner,” however, isn’t just pointless, it can be downright detrimental.
As most runners know, running isn’t just a physical endeavor; it’s a mental one, too. It takes a huge amount of mental discipline to get up and run on days when you just want throw the covers over your head and stay in bed, or to keep yourself moving when your lungs are burning and your legs hurt and all you want to do it sit down. There’s no room in running for negative thinking. Going into the run with the wrong mind-set is a recipe for disaster. By labeling yourself a “slow runner,” you are setting yourself up to never be anything but.
The first time I ran with a running group, I came in dead last. Overcome with embarrassment, I never went back. I tell you this not to elicit pity, but to give you an example of how negative thinking has the potential to derail your training.
Every runner suffers from self-doubt. The key is not to let your insecurities consume you. So what if you get lapped? Whether you run an 6-minute mile or a 12-minute mile, you are still getting all the health benefits associated with living an active lifestyle. You are still challenging yourself. You are still winning.
Ultimately, it’s not how fast you get there that matters, it’s how much you enjoy the journey.