I don’t consider myself a fast runner, even among amateurs. My half marathon pace was 7:37, and I haven’t broken 21:00 in a 5k. It’s not bad, but I’m not winning my age group or anything. When I was training for the half marathon, I set a goal, and I lived by the watch, tracking my pace and splits. I timed all my workouts, and memorized what it felt like to run 7:37miles. I’m happy to report that it worked. I ran my time and finished under 1:40:00. By association, when I learned what my “fast” felt like, I also learned slow. I hated slow. It became a real drag and sucked the fun out of running. If a workout wasn’t going as planned, it was hard to find any pleasure in the run, sometimes I’d even cut it short. Of course I put this pressure on myself, but heavy legs shook my confidence and had me second guessing. I’m sure a lot of runners struggle with the clock, but when the race was over, I had trained myself to think there was no value in going slow. Some might say I was right in that thought, but for me, it was all wrong.
As an aspiring ultra runner, my focus has changed from speed to distance, no matter how long it takes. It is such a freeing feeling when you realize it’s OK to go slow. This may sound like a convenient excuse for a slow runner, but now I find that my runs are more rewarding and have more variety. Sometimes I go fast, sometimes I drop to 10 minute miles, and sometimes I even walk. With this new attitude, I’m able to find pleasure in every run, including the slow ones. Going slow has given me time to become a better runner. I’m concentrating on my form and efficiency, differentiating good aches and pains from the bad ones, anticipating the highs and lows, and learning how to refuel on the go. I haven’t timed myself lately, but I know I’m faster and stronger than ever before. If I topped off with a little speed work right now, I could smash PR’s. Distance running has enough pressure as it is, give yourself a break and leave your watch at home next time. You just might learn something new.
Your thoughts? Do you feel naked without your watch?