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.
I am most certainly a numbers person. A classic, type A personality defines me. I love structure, data, plans, 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.
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.
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.
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.