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 and had very few people running in my age group;).
Nevertheless, my shiny new PR might be what some consider a slow, easy paced run, but for me it was quite an accomplishment.
Let’s face it: I am a slow runner.
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 meeting 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 training plans, structure, data, and analyzing everything in between. While I love breaking down the numbers for my 400s on an interval run or conquering a new marathon PR, 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 means pushing myself to new limits, like digging deep on a tempo run, setting lofty goals or needing to stop and catch my breath after an interval. I use the term in a versatile way – but no matter what it is describing, I know that my efforts are always worthy.
At times, running provides a simple outlet for stress and means to stay in shape. During others, it might involve a variety of frequent local, short races. And sometimes, running might involve calculated training for weeks on end.
Sometimes speed may mean pushing myself just a few seconds faster on a 4 mile run. It might mean completing a short run without taking any walk breaks. When training for a race, speed may mean weekly interval runs with very specific time goals.
Whatever the case, I make a point to celebrate even the smallest of my “speedy” accomplishments during each and every season.
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 involve easily completing a 10k at an 8:40 pace.
It’s so easy to get bogged down in feeling like a “slow” runner. We’ve all fallen into the comparison trap at one point or another. When friends and social media influencers seem to be knocking out long runs at lightening-speed paces, it’s easy to second guess our previous tempo miles.
No matter how fast or slow you go, we are all runners. Getting outside and putting one foot in front of the other means you deserve that title. Running one mile at a 13 minute pace is still the same distance as running a mile at a 6 minute pace.
Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Running is an individual sport that allows us to continuously push ourselves to new bests. We race against ourselves, conquer our minds, and reap the physical rewards.
Speed means one thing: pushing yourself to be your 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 impressive reactions from fellow runners, they are still enough to 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 improving 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:
- 4 Simple Variations for Your Next Tempo Run
- Increase Your Speed: The Best 30 Minute Interval Run
- Running Goal Setting That Will Make You Proud
- How to Build a Solid Running Base