Last Updated on June 25, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Let me start this post out by saying: I get it. I really do.
While these long legs are capable of something resembling speed and/or the occasional placement on a local 5K podium, I’m incredibly far from the fastest runner in the pack. In fact, I’ve been in “packs” where I was the absolute slowest runner, hands down. And I know what it feels like to believe you are the weak link holding everyone else back. You see everyone else running effortlessly ahead of you, and you feel frustrated and guilty, believing that your lack of speed is ruining their workout. So you tell them “I’m sorry I’m so slow, go on without me” and then again “no, seriously, I don’t want to hold you back, go on without me” when they don’t listen. You find yourself equal parts frustrated and thankful when they refuse to go, but you incessantly and instinctively apologize anyway.
Stop apologizing for being slow. I appreciate that your words are coming from a sincere, caring place; it’s certainly much nicer to hear “I’m sorry I’m holding you back” rather than, say “slow down you insensitive jerkholes, you’re running too fast for me!”. But I truly mean it when I say that you don’t have to apologize for being “slow”.
And here’s why:
1) We’re happy to have you. I suppose it’s presumptuous to speak for for everyone, but this is my blog so I’m going to shout it from the rooftops anyway: “I’M SO HAPPY TO RUN WITH YOU!” no matter how fast or slow we are going. You see, running has changed my life (cue sappy/romantic violin music while I profess my love) and not much in this world makes me happier than sharing that love with other people. Not warm towels fresh from the dryer, not discovering that it’s the time of year where I can buy those tiny Cadbury eggs with the hard candy shell, not even finding out that the really good craft brews are included in happy hour pricing. Seriously, sharing my love of running with other people is one of the most kickass things on earth. So thank YOU for joining me.
2) Being the slow guy will make you faster. It’s true. Hanging on to the back of the pack, feeling your legs burn, sucking wind, and praying that you survive this run is the epitome of stepping out of your comfort zone. If you were running by yourself, you wouldn’t push this fast. So don’t think of it as a training run where you hold everyone back, think of it as a speed workout that comes equipped with a bunch of “rabbits” to chase. It’s way more fun than running Yasso 800’s in circles at the track by yourself. (No offense at all to Bart Yasso, that guy rocks.) I, for one, am happy to help you push those boundaries.
3) Sometimes we need to slow down. I’m saying “we” assuming in this imaginary scenario I’m writing about, I’m one of the “fast” people you fear you are holding back. Long, slow runs are just as important as those fast training runs, and sometimes when we are feeling good, we forget the importance of taking it easy. Further, now that I’ve found myself in this crazy ultra running world, learning how to slow down and even effectively walk is really important. Yesterday I was reading an Umstead 100 race recap from fellow blogger Carolina John that had a statement that literally made me laugh out loud:
“There is a rule in ultras, and especially in long ultras, where you walk anything that smells like an uphill.”
It’s true. We walk a lot. Well, those of us who aren’t Anton Krupicka or Kilian Jornet. So really, don’t worry about us slowing down or walking, I promise it’s good for us. Plus, if we were REALLY concerned about our pace, we would have told you from the very start.
4) It’s all relative. And I don’t mean in the Venus and Serena Williams sort of way. What I mean is that in any given group someone has to be the slow runner. And someone has to be the fast runner. And that “fast” may be incredibly slow for another group of runners, and vice versa. It’s all relative to the group you are in at that very moment. Sure, there may be a few people who comfortably run the exact same pace, but chances are everyone’s “happy pace” is very different. This is what makes group runs so fun: you step outside of your normal solo training zone. So if you happen to be the slowest runner that day, don’t sweat it. Someone has to be that person, and this just happens to be your day.
And now I’m going to use the cliché but true motivational statement: the slowest runner is still faster than the person on the couch.
5) We’ve all been there. Well, 95% of us at least (I made up that statistic). But seriously, all of us started somewhere, and all of us have been the slow runner at some point. Or in cases like middle of the packers like me, sometimes we hang with those “front of the pack” runners and WE are the slow ones. We know how frustrating it can be. Or humbling. Or exhausting. Or whatever word you want to use to describe the physical and mental aspect of feeling like the slowest person.
And I promise I’m not just saying that.
Run happy, my friends, no matter what your pace…
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.
Thank you Heather for another brilliant all inspiring article!! <3 #katch
Great tips. I’m usually the fast one but I feel so guilty when ppl apologize.
Oh my gosh perfect timing on this! I ran with a very small group on Sunday; it was only 4 miles but it was at elevation and also hot as balls, and I felt like the deadweight anchor who couldn’t keep up and that they all probably were thinking “Why did she even come” etc etc.
Realistically, though, when I run with friends who are slower than me I totally feel the same as you do, “I’m so glad people want to have running dates with me” and “This is not a speed day so it doesn’t matter!” so it’s nice to hear the reminder that I didn’t ruin 3 fast strangers’ weekends!
I love this post. So true!!
thanks! I needed to hear that today
Thank you heather!! Sharing this will all my running friends. You so eloquently said what every runner should know. Thank you.
Needed to hear this! I’m always hard on myself for being slow, but have to embrace it more. Plus, there’s more room for improvement right?!
Kathryn @ Dancing to Running
When I started running, I very often would apologize for slowing people down, and would often encourage them to run ahead. I apologized most to my husband. But I need to remember that people chose to run with me for a reason, not just to be encouraged to “run ahead.”
Love this blog, i am the tortoise in our group and forever feeling guilty for holding the others back, no more, I am going to tape this blog to my forehead.
Miss Whisk (@Miss_Whisk)
Since starting back up running this year I find myself always saying this to my husband and him telling me the same thing. I’m not sure why I do it other than after running and than taking a break and running with the girls or the stroller which is much slower with then than I use to be and being active and in shape I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get back to where I was with running. For me it’s mostly my breathing I just can’t get it down or my heart rate in get in that groove.
Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner
lots of ladies in our running group apologize for being a slow runner or not going as long. I think lots of people are so self conscious about their running but they also discover they do much better than they thought once they come out with us
Lex @ Flecksoflex
What a great post! I’ve been sort of shaming myself over how slow a runner I am, and often find myself apologizing for being so slow. Now I feel better about going to another run hosted by my local Road Runners. I was so embarrassed last time, but now I feel empowered! Thank you for posting these encouraging words!
I have to say, I’m one of the slow runners, and it can be downright embarrassing sometimes. I do feel like less of a runner when I’m the caboose. I question why I’m even out there. Being the last person back to the meeting place sucks SO MUCH. And that’s why I’m eternally grateful for people like you. People who are happy to use running as a way to make friends, welcome others into the community, and genuinely want to run WITH you, not in front of you. I’ve made friends this way. One woman, Kaitlyn, insisted to no avail that she run with me, even though my pace is minutes slower. That was a year ago, and we’re still friends. I’m faster now, but so is she. I’m grateful she did this, as it pushed me to improve, and really see the amazing goodness in people.
Great post! So true, I love all 5 things you mentioned…we have definitely all been there and sometimes it is in our best interest!! Pinned 🙂
Cassi Schmigotzki (@LAWRTW)
I’m the fast one to my husband and I struggle with going his speed.
Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health
#3 and #4 is such a great reminder.
Jill Conyers (@jillconyers)
I remember when I first started running and joined a running group being the slowest was not a good feeling. I could either quit the group or get over it. I got over it.
I love this. It’s so applicable, not just for running but for other aspects of life. We’re all on our own journey right?
It is great to hear that validation – “We are happy to have you.” The running community is truly one of the most welcoming communities I’ve ever been a part of 🙂
I love this post! Thank you! I’ve been running with my running pals for 16+ years. We have slowed way down and done a lot more walking in-between runs… We each feel guilty for being the one that wants to walk or is the slow one. We also totally get that just running together all these years through injuries, the passing of parents, etc. is a gift!
I definitely needed to hear this. Not that long ago, I was “Faster than the slow kids and slower than the fast kids” but right now I’m one of the slow kids. I am trying to cope with a not so smooth start back.
Since RA and menopause have come into my life, I’m so much slower. Accepting my slowness is a work in progress. But I’m learning to embrace it. My new mantra is “slow is the new fast”. Thanks for legitimizing it for all of us!
[email protected] Pink!
Shared this with my run crew! I can’t express how much I love all my runners. Fast slow and in between. ❤️
Vanessa (She Runs by the Seashore)
I absolutely love this!! I’m always trying to tell this to people and I am about to share your post.
Barbara C Simpson
I am a slow runner and won’t run with anyone. I don’t know if I’m comfortable yet to run with others but after reading your words I will endeavour to say I am a runner and not qualify it with “slow”. Thanks.
You ARE a runner Barbara! Keep up the awesome work! Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am a really, really slow runner. I am/ was a dedicated walker 5 miles a day, 5 to 6 days a week. At 58 years old and after an aortic valve replacement, I set several goals – one of which was running a 10K. I worked long and steady towards that goal and 15 months after my valve replacement, I ran my first race ever! I came in next to last, but I hit that 6.2 miles with joy! I’ve run several races since then, always near dead last, but I finish. I. Finish. I’ve even completed one half- marathon (I do confess it SO kicked my butt and I need to train more before I do another one). I do a walk/run combo and I’m so thankful to be able to do it. And the bragging rights!! Yowza!! Every time I tell someone I run, I mentally do a slomo, supermodel hair toss. Thank you for your post. It’s so heartwarming and humbling to be encouraged for attempting to do your best – even when your best is last. Thank you.