If there’s one question almost every runner asks at some point, it’s “How can I run faster?” More than that, someone else will ask you, “How fast are you?”
I mean, that’s the main attribute of runners that most people are concerned with. The moment people find out you’re a runner, they start asking about how quickly you run, how fast you complete races, or your time on certain distances. They inquire about personal records (PRs) and about minute-per-mile averages.
And it’s super annoying, right? Right.
So What’s the Problem?
Well, the problem is that while lots of runners are proud of how quickly they can power through a mile, many are not — especially new runners.
New runners are always self-conscious about their running because all the experienced runners are faster than they are, and they feel ashamed at their minute-per-mile pace.
One of the most common concerns I hear from new runners is that they’re too slow. They want to learn how to run faster because they don’t want to come in last place at their race. It’s like if they come in at the rear of the pack, Spider-man will put them in the shame corner.
That’s just crazy. Let me tell you a secret.
No One Cares About You
Okay, that’s harsh. What I mean by that is that you’re the only person to whom that pace matters. No one is going to judge you on whether you’re a 5-, 8-, 13-, or 20-minute miler. You might care. Randy Runnerpants on the internet or your dear Aunt Josephine? Nope. They don’t.
If you have learned how to run faster over the years, great. I put in that effort because it was fun for me, not because I had insecurities from being around other people. It was a way I could gauge my personal fitness. Not how I could gauge myself against others.
And while we’re on the topic, the people that truly impress me in races aren’t those who finish first. I have mad respect for the ones at the end of the race, that last handful of people who bring up the rear.
When the early finishers are enjoying a banana and a bottle of water, people are still out there pounding the pavement. They endure so much more pain and frustration than the fast folk.
If you think about it, that kind of makes them the real superheroes of the running community.
You Don’t Have To Run Like The Flash
And who wants to be the Flash anyway? I mean, sure, he’s quick, but the dude can’t take a punch. He’s got a glass jaw. He might be hard to catch, but the moment something actually catches him?
Bam! Pow! Zot! And he’s down for the count.
You don’t wanna be like that! Right?
So are you really sure you want to learn how to run faster? You want to be a Batman or a Spider-man. Just absorbing as much as the villain can throw at them and still powering through to victory. Beaten and bloody, maybe. But victory.
Which is why I say slower runners are the real superheroes. Because they take so much more punishment than the fast runners.
They’re working way harder for way longer. By pulling up the rear, they’re spending double or triple the amount of time on the course as faster runners.
To me, that just indicates that they’re way stronger. Running is an endurance sport, and the longer you’re out there, the more you have to endure. Hence, slower runners are stronger. Bam. Logic.
The Penguin Doesn’t Have to Be a Batman Villain
Since I’m talking about superheroes, I can’t not mention the idea of penguin runners. No, not like the rotund rogue from the Batman comics. But I can’t imagine he would be getting any first-place finishes, either. Even in his age-group.
No, what I’m talking about are John Bingham’s disciples, the Penguins. This is a like-minded group of people who run for the love of running, who race for the joy of racing. They pay a fee to run a course, and by golly, they’re going to get their money’s worth.
Penguins don’t care about Runner’s World articles on how to run faster. They’re not interested in breaking PRs and crossing the finish line a few seconds faster than the people around them.
No, Penguins tend to be slow and at the back of the pack. They’re not racing to get a medal or a PR. They entered the race to be around a group of people who share a common love.
One thing you will notice about Bingham’s Penguins: they always have smiles on their faces.
Because they run because they want to run. There’s something admirable about that.
Now, some people in the running community have said that Bingham and his Penguins are supervillains who ruined the sport of running. That they’re the Legion of Doom out there ruining races for “real runners.”
That’s codswallop. In actuality, the Penguins’ running philosophy brought the sport to the masses and helped made it the open, loving, social community I know and love.
Never Fear, The Slowpoke Heroes Are Here
No…not that kind of Slowpoke. This is a superhero post, not a Pokemon one! Sheesh!
Anyway, don’t be ashamed of telling someone your PR or your minute-per-mile pace. No matter what it is. If they’re a runner, they’ll smile and be excited for you. Because you’re both runners.
The running community is wonderful and supportive. We’ve all been at the back of the herd at one point or another. And we all will be again.
If you’re the kind of runner who’s scared to sign up for a race because you think you’re too slow, put that out of your mind. If you’re worried, just make sure there’s no time limit on the race (or that you can finish in the time allowed).
For instance, the runDisney races have a 16 minute-per-mile pace requirement that starts only after the very last person crosses the starting line.
I promise that you will not be the only slow runner there. And even if you are in last place, you won’t be crossing the finish line alone. I have never been to a race where the last person didn’t just as many get cheers and as much applause as first place.
Whether you’re a walker or a slow runner or a jogger, don’t ever feel like you are out of place at a race. Don’t feel as though you have to learn how to run faster just for running faster’s sake. Don’t feel like just because you don’t cross the finish line first that you’re not a valued part of the community. Or that you are somehow less-than.
You are a valued part of the community. You are in no way less-than.
It takes heart to run slow. It takes a lot more strength to be on a marathon course for 5 hours instead of 3. You gotta have a ton more perseverance to have a 50-minute 5K than a 17-minute one. You have to be pretty dang tough, both mentally and physically, to stick with it.
Slow runners have to train and push and exert just as much to get to the finish line as anyone else. That makes you runners. That makes you superheroes.
So…what do you think? Are slow runners superheroes? Or should we all learn to run faster? Sound off in the comments!