I Don’t Need to Run Fast

I’m not very good at moderation. I tend to go balls to the wall, if you’ll pardon the expression (my mom is cringing) at pretty much everything I do. I’ve gotten a lot better than I used to be, but it’s still a problem from time to time. Like when I start running again after a 4 month injury/burnout-induced hiatus.

Yeah.

While there is absolutely no reason I need to be running every day or keeping any sort of pace faster than “one foot in front of the other,” I’m so damn competitive that I’ve slipped right back into keeping track of mileage and racing my Garmin every time I hit the pavement. Even when I take Roo with the idea that it will slow me down, I’m still keeping an eye on my pace.

And then there’s the distance issue. Jenny‘s sister had a 5K race entry up for grabs via Twitter the other day, so I nabbed it thinking I could run the 2 miles to the start, use the race as a tempo run, and run 2 miles back home for a total around 7.

photo 2

Beautiful day, right?

Why? Why?  WHY?

I don’t need to run 7 miles. I don’t need to run fast. Sure, I have a 10K in a few weeks, but (say it with me) I don’t need to run fast.

I actually looked down at my Garmin during the race–which by some evil trick of nature had us running into the wind the entire time–and, seeing that I was at 7:36 pace, felt disappointed. Nevermind the fact that I just started running 2 weeks ago, that I haven’t done any speedwork in months, that my hamstring and hip were pretty sore before I even started running on Sunday. Nope. Just frustration and disappointment in myself. Logically, I know that being disappointed in a 7:36 pace is incredibly stupid; still, it brought up a lot of self-doubt. Will I ever have another magical, pain-free, feelslikeImflying race? Will I be able to run fast again? Have I permanently injured myself? Or–worst of all–is my body just feeling my age?

Old. Busted.

Old. Busted.

I know that I’m still relatively young, but in the lifespan of an athlete, I feel like I’m getting up there. I have more aches and pains than I used to. It takes me longer to recover. And the fact of the matter is, my chosen sport is a lot harder on your body than many other sports. Cutting myself slack isn’t an option. I don’t care that I don’t have any cartilage in my knees or that loose ligaments make it nearly impossible for my hips to stay in alignment. So what if these are problems I literally can’t do a single thing to fix. I’m so freaking stubborn and determined that I’ll probably run myself into the ground, wind up with a stress fracture of some kind, before I slow down or quit.

So here’s the part where I talk myself off the ledge.

I might not be as fast as I’d like. I might take longer to recover or need to spend more time stretching and foam rolling. I might need more rest days. But I can still run. I’m only competing against myself. This is not my career; it’s my hobby. A hobby I love and am passionate about and want to spend time with because it challenges me and frees me and gives me something that’s just for me. A hobby that I want to be able to pursue for a long time. Because of that, I’m going to slow down. I’m going to run fewer miles. I’m going to take more rest days. I’m going to fix my form so that I quit the nasty heel-striking that I’m sure has everything and nothing to do with all the injuries I’ve experienced over the last year. But above all, I’m going to remember that I don’t need to run fast. Maybe someday I will again, but I can accept that today is not that day.

Pride’s in the backseat. Humility–hop up front.

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22 thoughts on “I Don’t Need to Run Fast

  1. So a 7:36 was a slow pace in your mind? Coming up there to slap you. Then to look at the cherry blossoms. By the time I’m done with the cherry blossoms, you will have forgiven me for the slap and then we can go drinking.

  2. terrid614 says:

    gahhh. word press just ate my comment. anyway, i was saying, you ROCK. i am the world’s slowest runner! now granted, i am a weeee bit older then you….. 😉 but still……i am jeally.
    happy monday!!! xo

  3. I totally relate to you here!!! I’ve gotten injured so many times in the past because I was just running too damn fast (and not giving myself enough time to recover…and I realized that 2 months was sometimes just not enough time). The year before last when I was recovering from snagging the cartilage in my knee, I took a year…yes a whole year…to do some Chi Running. I think my body just needed to “reset” and it’s amazing the type of active recovery your body can do in 12 months. All while you’re still running! After the year was up I was back to building my speed again. And I haven’t had any problems since! I still run slower than I know I can just because I’d rather run than run fast, get hurt, and not run. But I think that’s a personal decision every one needs to make. Sounds like you’re making some good decisions though! 🙂

  4. I can totally understand how you feel! I learned that it is not possible for me to “take it easy” at a race, lol. I’ve signed up for multiple races where it’s just to help aid my training and I’m supposed to go at a set long-run pace, but I end up going all out and trying to PR!! I feel like there’s a certain personality type that is drawn to training and racing, and its those same traits that make us push ourselves too hard sometimes.I have to remind myself that it’s not like I’m trying to go pro and if I want to keep running in the long run (haha, no pun intended), I have to take it easy on my body! 🙂

  5. I have a hard time with this as well. Even when I was waddle running (FOR A GOOD REASON), I was still beating myself up over not having a faster pace. And I admit, I still do it to myself on the spin bike (for about 5 seconds) and then I have to give myself kick in the ass. You don’t always have to be the fastest or push yourself the hardest, especially if means not feeling like crap later on.

    On the flip side — when I was training for my marathon my group running leader told me that you know you’ve really matured as a runner when you stop worrying about races and pacing and just enjoy the run. I have to agree. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being competitive, especially because it’s called RACING for a reason, but there was a point in his running career where he realized that he was OK with not running his fastest. Ironically, after he hit that point he started PRing even more and was just smarter with regards to his training.

  6. applesandglue says:

    You consider a 7 something pace slow? Oh my gosh, don’t look at my paces then!

    I think that’s a good attitude that you’re trying to have, and maybe even an attitude I need to start thinking about myself, since I keep trying to compare myself to other runners, who have been doing this far longer than I have…

  7. I would never be upset with a 7:30 pace but I do understand with pushing ourselves to do better. You will be better off if you quit pushing yourself so hard. But I totally understand. A change in attitude is needed and sounds like you are on the right track. Good luck.

  8. A 7 minute mile IS NOT SLOW:) haha- I wish I could run that fast, but nope. Absolutely cannot happen right now. I totally get the competitive side of running, and I have to remind myself that if I do what I want, I will be injured and my run at all. Good luck in fixing your form! It’s tough work!

  9. I needed this post! No matter what I’ve gone through this month (two bouts with the flu and having my foot run over by a car) I constantly take my Garmin and constantly beat myself up if I’m running anything less than 7:30. This is my hobby! It’s supposed to be my passion! Not my career! No one is paying me to run fast! Thanks for sharing in my frustration while still sharing your wisdom. There will be fast days, there will be slow days, and there will be days in between. That’s just the way of the runner.

  10. here’s my hopefully-helpful yet unsolicited advice: set a new goal. it’s really hard to just do “less” or “go slower”, and it’s really demoralizing to try and do some nebulous “responsible thing” when you’re all but addicted to accomplishing impressive stuff. so, my thought is, make the responsible thing into something that impresses you, and work with your ocd instead of against it. 😉 you’re the one who decided it was a good idea to slow down, run less, so trust yourself and set about doing that in the anal way you know how! once you decide exactly *how* slow you’re going to run, make it a project to stay as absolutely close to that number as possible and see if you can not deviate for one second; make it a game to run every step of your next 5k at a 8:36 pace and see how consistent you can get. (is that miserably slow? i would kill someone and steal their legs to be able to run that fast, even for a little bit 😉 ) or if you set a distance limit per week, then add on some other qualifiers to give your brain something to accomplish- within that 20-mile limit, 5 must be uphill, 5 must be trails, 5 must be slower than 9:00, 5 must be done with not one single negative thought *or there will be penalties*… 🙂 i play games like this with myself mentally all the time, and i really like how it gives my add something to feast on. what do you think?
    good luck and be kind! (to yourself, ya know 😉 )

    • That is good advice. I love your idea of setting other qualifiers besides fastest or furthest. Thanks so much, Tara!

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