With Spring comes lots of opportunities to participate in run/walk events. And with that, comes the social media status updates from folks disparaging themselves, lessening their accomplishments, all by pointing out how slow they are.
From my vantage point, this “slow” thing comes in two forms: those who do run slower than the top half of those at a race and those who don’t but feel it necessary to say before every race that they will be the slow one slogging by.
If you aren’t slow, would you please stop saying that you are? Can you imagine how that feels to someone who is slower than you? Now they are slower-than-slow. I get that you don’t feel as fast as the Olympian that zipped by you, but that’s not the same as those in the back of the pack who truly understand slow. Mostly I want to know why it’s even important that you discuss your speed in a race. From the sofa where most are watching your status updates scroll by, we are just excited to see your accomplishment. And that accomplishment could be showing up at the start line or making it all the way to the finish. You can skip the part about saying you are slow when you often find yourself on the podium, placing in the top of your age group. Besides belittling your own accomplishment, it’s tough to be the one out on the course who takes twice as long as you do with comments like this. Be a little softer to yourself by acknowledging that you aren’t slow and be a heck of a lot softer to the runners who are slow.
If you are slow, I get you! I finished a marathon dead last. By 9 minutes I was dead last. I still got a snazzy medal. Sometimes I think about wearing it grocery shopping just so folks now how bad ass I really am. I crossed a 10k finish line my first year of racing just as they were rolling up the FINISH banner. I definitely qualify as slow. I have also finished several half marathons in the top half. Yet I am still considered slow by the standards of many. But here’s the deal: I am still showing up at the start line and I’ve always managed to make it to the finish even if it’s not pretty. Doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are compared to others unless you are in that top 5% of racers who are competing for prize money anyway. The other 95% of us are there to pursue a personal goal, not to compare ourselves to other people. Right? Or maybe you are comparing yourself to those other people…and that usually doesn’t feel good. I set goals and I compare me to me, maybe my last race time to my next race time. But I’m not like anyone else at that race and they aren’t exactly like me so it’s pointless to compare, to downplay my accomplishment.
And for those of you who are scared to try because of this slow talk, don’t be. There will be someone at every race who has a pace similar to yours. Don’t be discouraged because you saw a Facebook status commenting on a “miserably slow race finish” from your neighbor who runs by at speeds faster than you drive in your neighborhood. Seriously, don’t be discouraged. This isn’t about their speed or your speed in comparison to theirs. It’s just about moving your body in a way that you enjoy.
Here’s where the focus should be: if you show up for a running or walking event, you are probably in the 20% of Americans who get the suggested amount of exercise each week. That means that just by participating, you’ve beat 80% of ALL Americans. Whether you do that fast or slow, totally doesn’t matter. What matters is that you did it. A mile is a mile, same 5,280 feet at any speed. You’re moving your body and hopefully you are doing it at races because you enjoy them. It’s ok to not turn them into something unenjoyable by saying unkind things about your speed or performance.
A friend shared a silly picture on Facebook that said something like, “I may move at the speed of a turtle in a puddle of hot fudge, but I’m still a runner.” While I don’t think we need to explain our speed (or lack thereof) to anyone, it’s okay to be slow. Or to be fast. You do you and don’t you worry about anyone else’s pace. Last time I checked, you paid the same to enter a race as the other runners, you’re going to do the same number of miles. Give yourself credit for this instead of cutting yourself down because you aren’t super speedy. Be softer to you. I promise it will make racing much more enjoyable.
If you aren’t a runner but have somehow stuck around and read this entire post, I want to challenge you to join me in doing something fun that will feed your soul AND the soul of a slow runner. You know that big race you keep hearing about on the news? The one that is going to close a few streets for a few hours on a Saturday coming up? Go there….but not to be at the start line. Go to the finish line. You don’t have to hurry getting there, you are going for the slow runners. Bring encouraging posters, a cowbell or two and your loudest cheering voice. You see, many of the spectators leave after the fast folks whiz by, after their runner has finished. But the slow runners and walkers at the back of the pack? They will love it if you stick around to cheer for them. A big part of me believes those folks are truly the winners, often the ones who have fought the hardest battle physically, mentally or both, just to get there. Join me in cheering them on. They deserve a party at the finish line just as much as the first person to cross it.