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.