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.