So. Here we go again. One of my favorite rants.
Let me say it again: I am a slow runner. I have been running, with some consistency, for more than a decade. I have completed 5 marathons, with two under 5 hours, one right near it (5:07), and two okay now I'm trying for the written equivalent of mumbling to avoid telling you that the other two were, um, slow.
An 11 minute mile is fine by me. Beating my 9 year old 5k PR of 25:40 would be dreamy. Qualifying for Boston? I'd probably pay to have my time engraved on my medal, or maybe even invest in one of those shadowboxes to show off my bib and medal and my finisher's photo... for starters. It would likely also involve a tattoo. Probably on my face.
Call me a plodder if you must; I prefer "runner." The point being, I'm an experienced plodder/jogger/runner. I've raced all distances through the marathon. I've run on trails and tracks and roads and vacations and treadmills and in foreign countries in a skirt. I've used camelbaks and handheld water bottles and Fuel Belts and Gu and Gatorade and Ultima. And I'm okay with my pace. If I get faster, I would be okay with that, too, but I know that I'm pushing myself and challenging myself by running as-is and I don't need speed to prove that to me.
So why, then, is the assumption that because I'm slow I must just be beginning? At the Run Club the other night, we were divided into three groups: "Fast," "Experienced Runners," and "Maybe people who are just starting out or might be walking for some of it." My group and our 10:30 pace got the coaches' attention as they encouraged us with things like, "You guys are looking great, you can totally do this, it will only get easier!" said in an earnest voice. At the end, when I asked what to expect from future runs, I was told that I would probably find myself improving, for sure - when all I was wondering was whether they would be tempo/interval/fartlek runs or what. Mind you, the coaches were nothing but encouraging and nice and meant no condescension by this. But this attitude of "slow=inexperienced" is, in my experience, endemic to the running community. And I'm over it already! Enough!
True story: lining up at the start of the Chicago Marathon with the 5:30 pace group last year, the pace leader told us that her plan was to Gallowalk. Many of the first-timers gathered around her were clearly distraught to hear that; they'd trained to run, albeit slowly. In response, the pace leader said, "I heard a rumor that one of the 5:45 leaders was thinking about actually running the whole thing. Honestly, I don't even know how you could run that slow if you tried!"
Perhaps not a coincidence, today I bought a headband at the NYC Half Marathon expo that reads, "Slow is the new fast."
On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"