I haven’t always been a slow runner. A few years ago I got to be reasonably good. It’s been a long time since any pb’s though and I don’t see any on the horizon. My relationship with running has mellowed over time. Like any new romance, I started off lusty and eager to please and have ended up slatternly and complacent; my kit is no longer co-ordinated and I don’t get giddy over every local 10k like a young lover heading out on a date.
Someone said of me this week that I’m the only person who enters races but doesn’t race them; a spurious observation, I feel. However, admittedly, speed is no longer a priority for me. Accepting that I’m never going to care enough to make it count has taken a while, I admit. Basically I wanted the glory without the guts, which was never going to happen. Instead, I’ve seen a steady decline of my racing form and a disinclination to reverse it.
Running slow doesn’t necessarily come easy though. Here’s some of the strategies I’ve used, (some deliberately, others not,) to ease my pace and, as a result, increase my contentment.
- Ditch the watch. Who cares what some numbers on a rubber strap around your wrist say about the last hour of your life? Who needs a chest strap to tell you that your heart was working hard? Go run and return home flushed and happy.
- Run too little. It turns out that sitting around reading books, eating crisps and playing on your phone all week and then going for a really, really long run on a Sunday isn’t the plan that’ll turn you into an elite athlete. Go figure.
- Run too much. When you really like doing something there’s always the chance you’ll overdo it. Turning up at Parkrun with 50+ weekly miles in my legs has never made me run it faster.
- Run long. The laws of mathematics/momentum/physics, or something, mean that the further you run the easier the pace you need to adopt. Run far enough and you’re basically just a bum wiggle above a walk and you get pop and cake at the aid stations.
- Run off road. You only need to try hard on tarmac. Fact. Any other surface under foot and it’s accepted that it’s not about time; it’s about conditions. You can blame inappropriate footwear, a slight drizzle or an errant ewe for your lacklustre performance. Off road races take place over weird, often un-specified distances too making it difficult to compare times.
- Run commute. A packed lunch, change of clothes, a couple of books, a purse full of change and a bit of shopping you’ve picked up on your way, all stuffed into your backpack, will slow you down without the added bonus of standing at the kerbside for prolonged periods waiting for a gap in the traffic.
- Nav. Carry a map as an excuse to stop and “get your bearings.” Run somewhere you’ve never been before or try and follow a route somewhere more familiar. You can’t rush and map read.
- Fancy dress. You cannot run fast in a onesie/hat/mask. You cannot run fast with pom poms, a teddy bear or in a woolly jumper, shawl, wimpole or dressing gown. I know because I’ve used all these as legitimate “look-how-fun-but-sluggish-I-am” excuses.
- Name your run. Recce. Route-finding. Social run. Take your pick.
- Dog jog. Toilet breaks, bottom sniffing, a diversion to splash in the river. Dogs don’t care about pace. A labrador is a slow runners best friend.
- Run for fun. Every run is not a race. This is a hobby. You’re not running for Olympic qualification so just chill out!