Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Pleasure Of Running Slow(er)

I believe I’ve been misconstrued and misrepresented.

My participation in certain running events in the past two weeks (namely the Long Branch Half Marathon and the 10K Virtual Club Run) have brought some unexpected focus and attention to the velocity with which I traverse the roads. Most casual friends and RBFs, upon reading my last few posts and others’ comments, have been led to believe that I am a fast runner. In actuality, nothing can be further from the truth. Those who have run with me know that I am not fast. Just because I’ve won a few accolades (thanks Nancy for naming me a Legend of Loincloth!) and PR’d most of my races so far, it’d be wrong to equate the Laminator with speed, because truthfully, I do slow just as often as I do fast. In fact, the most pleasurable runs I had in the past few days have been some of the slowest miles I’ve logged all year! I’ll detail just a couple of examples to illustrate my point.

Slow Run #1 happened last weekend when I ran with my fellow blogger friend sRod. I know most of you have probably read his race report (since he used it as his virtual 10K race) by now, but what you didn’t get was my thoughts and my experiences running with him. Although the pace was slower than what I was accustomed to, it was exactly what I intended and wanted that particular run to be. For starters, I had done my own 10K virtual race the previous night, so my legs were more than a little stiff heading out so early in the morning. Secondly, I was planning a 16-mile long run that day, which would not have been possible if I was running my usual pace for the duration. Thirdly, I needed to run slowly so I could be conversant. (To be honest, I was running at my conversant pace while he was doing his race pace, which meant that it was a one-sided conversation the whole way through for the most part!) Finally, I was secretly hoping to train him to run faster by starting out slow and ever so slightly increasing the pace when we were in the midst of a deep conversation. All in all, I think the run was a major success. We caught up on things; sRod ran his 10 miles and got a PR (Woohoo!), while I ran slow for 10 then faster for 6 to finish my long run of 16 miles at a pretty decent pace.

Slow Run #2 just happened today when I convinced a friend of mine to join me on a six mile run around Central Park. Over the weekend, I had come out early to cheer her on as she ran the Mother’s Day 4-Miler for her first official NYRR race. Afterwards over breakfast, she told me that the race wasn’t as tough as she thought it’d be and that she had plenty left in the tank even at the finish. So I did what any runner would do and challenged her to run the Healthy Kidney 10K with me this weekend. She seemed intrigued, but was hesitant because she had never ran that distance before and wasn’t sure what to expect. So I offered to take her around the course after work one day as a preview to race day. She agreed, signed up, and met me promptly today for her tour. Anticipating this run, I had headed out an hour and half before to do my tempo run and track work so that by the time I’d meet her, I’d be tired and ready to run slow. We started on a slight downhill, and so was able to management a fast first mile. Once we got going, I allowed my friend to dictate the pace, always holding myself a step or two back so as to not lead the way. Because she seemed very focused on her running, I did not bother her with much conversation throughout the run. Instead, I allowed my thoughts to wander and really took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings. Although she struggled at parts, especially during those big gigantic Harlem Hills (honestly, who wouldn’t), my friend managed to finish the six mile loop without stopping at a 9:10 pace. I was very proud of her for sticking with it (it was totally dark when we finished the run!) and proud of myself for not running ahead or messing up her tempo. I make great company on these slow runs, my friend told me as we were parting ways. For once, I couldn’t agree with her more.

So you see, fellow runners, I consider myself a runner just like the rest of you – not fast or slow, or both fast and slow. Speed, as I’ve come to learn over the years, is a relative term, and as such, has no merit on its own. As runners, we should use it only as a basis of comparison with ourselves and as motivation to perform up to our own athletic capabilities. The fact of the matter is that I’m a runner, and whether I’m fast or slow really has no bearing on the kind of runner that I am.


Andrew is getting fit said...

I really like that last paragraph. Great post!

sRod said...

I was bamboozled!!!

Ok, not really. Thanks for pushing me to go faster--it really worked. Let's see if I can hold up a conversation this weekend (looks like I might not be in Philly).

Reid said...

That's the great thing about this running/blogging community of which we are a part. Like you said, it really doesn't matter what kind of a runner one is. We are runners. Period. We can all encourage, motivate, and strengthen others regardless of the pace we run. Well said, Lam.

nyflygirl said...

I'm gonna hold you to that next time I see you at a Flyer group run. :-p

mom2beccaNallie said...

Fantastic post today!! You sure you weren't writing about me. As Saturdays 10K will be my first in over 2 1/2 years, and I still have yet to run that distance in training, most I've run is 5. So, to say the least I am a little concerned about the Healthy Kidney 10K, but feel a little better after reading your post and gaining much comfort from it

And you are exactly right, we are all runners, regardless of how fast or slow we are. I tend to run all my training runs slow, and run fast for the races. I compete against myself and no one else. But as reid commented, we are all a running community and encourage each other no matter what.

Wow, wish I could get into the city some day and run with you. You are truly the perfect running partner!!

audgepodge said...

Yes, speed is relative, but being fast is also something to be proud and excited about! For example, one summer a running buddy saw me go from a 9:30 pace during a 5K to zooming to an 8:53 pace during my next one. She later remarked, "You're so fast!" My response? "I know!!!" :)

But like you and others have said, there is definitely joy to be had in both the slow and the fast runs - whatever pace they may be.

Nitmos said...

Time is relative, that's for sure. And, relatively speaking, I'd love to run your time.

Good post.

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Oh Lam, you're fast but the point is, you're cool about it. The jerky fast people probably don't blog and take the time to encourage and run with people who are somewhat speed challenged. The kind of person you are comes shining through. I wish I could run with you some day. Maybe I'll get an invite to HQ soon.

I always get excited and intrigued when you talk about female friends. Hopeless romantic I guess. :D

bill carter said...

Hi Lam

Just getting caught up, my friend. A week in Disney with a 5 year old and well... you can just imagine the brain drain and the way my body feels after endless miles of Disney theme parks...

First, congrats on the awesome half marathon and PR. Your humble nature has been undone by the fact that you ran so well and really are that accomplished of a runner. To that I say "Hah.. got you!".

Second, congrats on passing the boards. That is something that so many of us face before we are allowed to work with patients and although it has been 13 years for me, I still remember it quite well.

Third, I have always wanted to know where the Laminator nickname came from and now I do. I would love to have such great handwriting and think that the whole doctor/ bad handwriting thing is kind of ridiculous. I think it is because we are often in a hurry and maybe doing 10 things at once, but it is certainly not an asset or anything to be proud about.

Thanks for sharing and congrats again on both your great races.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I too get caught up with how "fast" I should be or what splits I should be achieving.

It's good to take a step back and realize that fast is relative term.

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