What Speed Means to Me

As a classic, middle of the pack runner, speed is something I always hear about, but never consider myself to posses. To me, speed means something different that 400s and 800s, track workouts and 5k PRs.

Since I started running 7 years ago, I have placed in only one race. That race was a small, local 10k put on to raise money for the community. During this race, I pushed myself to paces that felt ridiculously uncomfortable. Upon finishing, I surprised myself with a personal best and 1st place finish in my age group. (That 1st place award probably had a great deal to do with the fact that the race was so small, with very few people running in my age group;). My shiny new PR might be what some consider a slow, easy paced run, but for me it was quite an accomplishment.

Since that race in 2013, I have never again placed in my age group (let alone in a race overall). And since that race in 2013, I have never tried to place either.

Speed always seems to be a common topic among runners.

When talking to a fellow runner, they often ask about PRs or recent race times. I nod and smile, always leading with the fact that I am just an average runner – definitely not fast by any means. They react with a statement of understanding, and express how impressive it is that I am able to run so many miles, regardless of the time. Even so, it seems like I constantly hear about paces, 400s, 800s, and PRs, especially on social media.

Related: How I Took Nearly 40 Minutes Off My Half Marathon PR

I am most certainly a numbers person. A classic, type A personality defines me. I love training plans, structure, data, and analyzing everything in between. While I love breaking down the numbers for my 400s on an interval run, or recording my new PR in the half marathon, it has always struck me that I viewed speed differently than other runners.

As a classic, middle of the pack runner, speed is something I always hear about, but never consider myself to posses. To me, speed means something different that 400s and 800s, track workouts and 5k PRs.

Speed, for me, is not defined by how fast you run.

Speed is pushing myself to new limits, like digging deep on a tempo run, or needing to stop to catch my breath after an interval. I use the term in a versatile way – it can mean different things in different situations. When running has been a way to stay in shape, speed may mean pushing myself just a few seconds faster on a 4 mile run. If I’m training for a half marathon, speed may mean an interval run with the goal of completing my 400s in 2 minutes.

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A speed workout for me after a long break from running may mean that getting to the 9:30 minute mile mark is a massive accomplishment, while in the fall, a tempo run may mean a 10k at an 8:50 pace. However, no matter how diligent I may be, speed will never be something that allows me to win races.

Speed means one thing to me: pushing myself to be my best.

Related: What to Know When Achieving Your Goals Feels Out of Reach

My future probably doesn’t hold any first place finishes or elite starts, but it still holds something great. The future holds continued improvement, never failing to strive for the highest. While my paces will probably never earn me any impressed reactions from fellow runners, it does grant me a sense of pride in my accomplishments.

Running is about so much more than just the numbers. It’s about pushing yourself to new distances, paces, and personal breakthroughs. It’s about continuously increasing your best. Just when you think you can’t possibly do anything more, you run that extra mile or shave 10 seconds off your PR. With running, the opportunities are limitless.

Running Speed Workout Ideas & Inspiration:

The long run is the most crucial part of marathon or half marathon training. Whether you are running your first, or 20th, these tips are sure to help you have your best long run ever. These simple ideas will revitalize your training and help all runners enjoy the miles.

What Speed Means to Me: Running Inspiration for the "slow runner" out there

What Speed Means to Me: Running Inspiration for the "slow runner" out there

12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you! I’m often discouraged to hear how fast a friend has finished a race. I have to stop comparing myself to others and just be proud of my personal accomplishments!

    1. I can definitely relate! It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come when you hear a fast friend telling you their race times. Running is such an individual sport; I always try to write down my times and look back through old PRs and distances when I start getting discouraged! I think we sometimes forget how much progress we’ve made, so looking at old, slower times is great reminder 🙂

  2. I love how you say you use the term speed in a versatile way–I think that’s great. Speed is of course relative to all of us. I love reading things from all types of runners with all different abilities–and I like reading things from speed demons! It does bum me out though when they run a 7:30 mile and call themselves slow. I would be thrilled to run that fast–and I would be proud, I wouldn’t lessen my accomplishment because it’s not an accomplishment to someone else. That’s the great thing about running i think-we really only have to compete with ourselves.
    I am currently trying to get faster myself because I think it’s fun. I like the type of work it requires and I like what it does to my body. I am using some different muscles than i was logging those longer slower runs for marathon training! You’re such a great runner–I’m always impressed no matter the distance. Your commitment to the sport is beyond inspiring. Keep it up girl! x

    1. I love how running can be completely a personal sport. You can be good at it personally, even if you’re way slower than other runners or can’t run as long of a distance as others. I’m a slower runner too, but my current pace is about a minute faster than it was last year. Even though I’m still way slower than most of the running community, I know that I’m better than I used to be.

      It’s awesome being able to push yourself to do better than YOU, and not have to compare yourself to others. I can see why racing others can be appealing to some runners, but for me, and many others, I love just trying to beat out my previous times.

      And it’s so fun to analyze your stats and progress!

      Anyway, running long distances (or any distance) is super impressive regardless of how fast you go, so I’m glad you’re proud of your accomplishments and don’t let other runners take that away. It’s something that I’ve struggled with mentally, but I’m finally coming to terms that no matter how slow you go, running is still quite the achievement, and to not let others make me feel like less of a runner for not being fast.

      1. Absolutely love everything you say here! Running is so unique to each of us. I feel so successful when I run but at the same time always feel like I can improve. It keeps me pushing myself, that’s for sure!

        Increasing your pace by a full minute in just one year is INCREDIBLE! That is definitely something to celebrate. It’s so satisfying to see hard work pay off.

        I definitely agree that running is an accomplishment in itself. Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

      2. You know what’s funny is, I call myself a “slow” runner, because I know that is acceptable in front of all of you. I know that if my paces were judged by a large percentage of the running community, “slow” is how I would get labeled–so I accept that term for my online persona.
        But in real life—I don’t think I’m slow! I think I am a strong runner with decent speed for a big-boned 34 year old. I just think all those other runners who call themselves slow when they run a 730 mile are crazy and crazy fast! The conversation we are having here just made me think about how what i actually think about myself and what I let society deem upon me are not always aligned. It’s kind of bullshit. If I had any balls (oh wait–but you know what I mean), I would talk about how I think my 809 mile is fast–and i wouldn’t clarify it by saying “but I know this is slow compared to a lot of people…” blah blah. Hmm…writing without a bunch of bullshit qualifiers. There’s an idea.
        Great thoughts girls. x

      3. So true!! I would never even classify myself as slow or fast if I didn’t hear it all on social media and in society so frequently. Ultimately it doesn’t matter at all anyways! Even if I shaved three minutes off my mile time I still would be no where close to winning a race. And I’m perfectly okay with that! Heck if I could run an 8:09 mile I’d think I was flying! Haha you are rockin it and the only person’s opinion that matters is YOURS! Thanks for all the thoughts! 🙂

      4. Girl you are certainly flying in my mind! I could only dream of running that speed haha 😉 that is awesome!!

    2. I completely agree! Running is so unique to all of us. It’s one of the areas in life where I feel the most successful, yet at the same time always know that I could be doing more. Speed work is definitely not one of my favorite things to work on, but I always feel so proud when I see progress. It definitely uses different muscles than long runs! (Maybe this is why it feels like such a struggle all the time, haha;). I hope your speed work is going well! Staying motivated in the winter is always tough but progress is so encouraging. Spring is going to feel like a dream! Thanks for reading girl! 🙂

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