the secret to speed

I’m a slow runner.

This is a fact. I’m comfortable at a 14:00-15:00 pace. Sometimes I’m even slower. I know that, for me, it is amazing for be able to run at all, regardless of my pace. I also know that, for many faster runners, that would be the pace of their brisk walk.

English: A ultramarathoner running the 32 Mile...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My ability to pace myself is awful, and I don’t know if it will ever improve significantly. After my car accident and the ensuing traumatic brain injury, one of my long-term impairments is an inability to maintain a rhythm. This is generally reflected in a total inability to play a musical instrument – something I’ve never really missed. But it also overflows to maintaining my pace when I’m running!

I admit, I’m a bit self-conscious about my slow pace. I’m pleased by my ability to run any distance at all, and especially by my distance races, but at the same time I’m painfully aware that, even among the runners, I will probably always be the slowest runner. (It’s not helped by the memories of high school gym class, where my plodding speed left me the target of classmates’ ridicule.) To my knowledge, there are also no running clubs too close to my home.

While I run, I rarely see other runners. I suspect that the biggest reason is because I tend to run at odd hours. Usually I run in the early afternoon, just after lunch. I rarely run in the early morning or late evening, which seems to be the most common times for seeing other runners. It’s also worth mentioning that there are definitely fewer runners outside on cold days like today than on the more pleasant spring or fall days. Of course, this doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s nice to have that solitary time on my runs.

Today, though, I saw another runner. Or, to be more precise, I was passed by another runner. He was running a faster pace than me – not too much faster, but faster. I decided to pace myself based on his presence a few feet ahead of me. When I got home and logged into Nike+, I was surprised (and pleased!) to discover that I ran that particular stretch much faster than my usual pace – nearly 10:30!

So, I’ve discovered the trick to running faster – run with other people and let THEM set the pace.


2 thoughts on “the secret to speed”

  1. Amen, Sister!

    I am the slowest runner in my club and generally the slowest runner on the trail. I’ve only been running for two years, so maybe I have some room for improvement, but I am never going to be a fast runner the way folks who have been doing this since high school are.

    Having said that, I have found that my pace improves the longer I am out there. I am always passed by hundreds (thousands) on organized runs, but at the Plaza 10K and the Groundhog 10K (for example), near the end I was passing a lot of people. Maybe they did a bad job of shepherding their energy, but maybe I was just finally warmed up and cranked up. There is something about running with others that lets me dig deeper and somehow ignore that part of my brain telling me to stop this foolishness and go sit somewhere.

    I’m slowly coming to accept my comparatively sluggish pace, and all of my runner friends assure me that pace is NOT something to worry about. They certainly don’t mention it or coach me on how to improve it (unless I ask for advice).

    We are runners too!

    1. Sometimes I think I’m the only runner whose pace (or at least, perception of pace) actually got slower as I improved. When I first started running, I used a treadmill almost exclusively, and within a few months I could run a 12:00 mile, or sometimes even a 10:00 mile. It took me a loooonnnggg time to find a pace that I could sustain for longer than a mile (and that didn’t leave me counting the seconds until the run was over). It’s frustrating to be so slow, but at the same time, it’s so rewarding to run for miles and miles without needing to stop!

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