Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blessed or Cursed with Speed

As a long distance runner with a busy professional life, I tend to do most of my training by myself. This is fine by me as I can run according to my own schedule, my own pace, for as long or short as I want. Almost by necessity, I am very cognizant of my own effort, my own speed, my own progression as a runner but somewhat clueless as to how it relates in comparison to others. I am part of a running club, the NY Flyers, but they serve more of a social function in my running life than as a source of competition. I participate in road races, but more to provide an objective measure of assessment for myself than as a tool to rate against others. For what good is it to me, if I'm top 1% vs the bottom 1% if I know nothing and have no business, and don't run with any of them? I much rather race the clock and chase PRs. That way, I can interpret my race times as it relates to me, and I can modify my training or alter my goals based on them. In the end, am I not a better judge of me than some ranking based on assumptions about others?

Maybe I'm naive, but I've always assumed that others follow a similar path. Even beyond the obvious, "speed is relative"; we all experience the same joy when we crush a PR, the same pain when we hit the wall, the same sorrow when we come close but fall short at a goal, and the same happiness when others achieve success in their events. So why does it matter so much who's a fast runner and who's not? Does the person who runs a 5 hour first marathon not deserving of the same applause and accolades as a 3 hour tenth marathoner? Who's to judge anyway?

I have been left to ponder the consequence and randomness of speed ever since one of my friends told me the other day that many, many members of my running club secretly admire my running and that some are even intimidated by my speed. He threw out some names and explained that people generally don't look for me to run with because they respect my speed and, in a sense, fear it. This is a complete shock to me on many levels. First of all, many of these people are my friends and no one previously has ever mentioned this little known fact to me before. Secondly, who the heck should care about how fast I run except me? Yes I may be blessed with God-given talent that may make me a little faster than the average human being but I train and run and struggle and hurt and race just like everyone else. From my vantage point, there are people in front of me, and there are people in back of me. We're all trying to get to the same place as fast as our legs will carry us. I might get there a little sooner or a little later, but eventually, you'll get there too! And if you struggle, I will do all I can to help just like I assume those in front will help me too! Admiration? Intimidation? How does any of that figure into the equation when all of us are traveling the same direction and sharing the same roads? Thirdly, since when has it been considered a bad thing to run with someone who's a little faster? Anyone who's ever been in training for any sport knows you don't get better by training with those who are at the same level as you, you get better by training with those who are bigger, faster, and more experienced. So by the same token, runners should look for opportunities to run with faster folk. Just by virtue of hanging with them, learning from their experience, and running with them, you're most definitely going to run faster and race better too!

I'm been told on many occasions that I can be humble to a fault, and many people have tried on numerous occasions to convince me that I'm incredibly gifted, talented and fast. With all due respect though, my mind is incapable of comprehending those terms because to acknowledge those qualities means that by extension, I must think you are less gifted, less talented, and slow, and I don't judge by those criteria. Sorry! Instead, I would like others to regard my speed (for those who think I'm fast) as a possibility for them. I want to inspire people to view speed not as a dichotomy (fast and slow) but as a continuum bounded by nothing but your own imagination, dedication, and hard work. Heck, I didn't start out running 6 minute miles either!

For whatever the reasons may be, no matter how much I want to be in denial about this, I know now that I'm generally well-respected in my local running scene and in the virtual community for running prowess. In so much as I'm viewed as a source of knowledge (both running and non-running), I want to help others achieve better results, better health and a better overall life for themselves and for their friends and families. In the end, that's what motivates me to train hard, to be faster and get better each and every day. I so much rather be respected and congratulated for that than for some arbitrary time on a race clock at the finish line.

To improves the lives of those around me, physically and virtually, that's why I run.

(I wish you all a happy weekend! It's very frigid temps for much of the country so stay warm wherever you may be running. I have a big announcement to make on Monday so come back then and don't let me catch you napping! Haha! Repeat after me: Spring will be here soon...)

21 comments:

Jenn said...

First of all - that was beautifully written.

I am one of those "slow runners" who does not like running with others because of my pace. My running friends are much faster than I am, to the point that they generally double my pace. For me to run with them, I feel like I'm either going to kill myself or substantially hold them back, so for that reason I keep logging the miles alone.

That being said, I'd love to find a local runner that runs somewhere in between my pace and that of my friends. I feel like that could push me to be faster and I'm sure it would teach me a lot.

Thanks for offering me a different perspective!
@jenn_if_er

Running and living said...

Yup, I have the same issue. Most people don't want to run with me bc I have gotten faster lately. I, like you, always slow down to meet other's speed, but somehow people still are intimidated. I also agree that running with people who are faster is awesome bc it makes you faster. Not sure what to make of it:)

Julie said...

Hi Lam,
I am now going to repeat after you....spring will be here soon!! Well, we made it through January and I think it went by pretty darn fast:)

Love the post...as always! It is so refreshing to hear that you were not always as fast as you are now. Don't get me wrong Lam, I do not mean that in a bad way. I have been a little bit disappointed in my half marathon time. I did not do as well as I had hoped. I see via blog land all of the super talented runners and their stellar times. I used to be pretty darn fast in high school and it is hard for me to see that I am not performing the way that I know that I am capable of. Thank you for reminding me that it just might take a little time, hard work and determination to get there. Every time that I take a few seconds or even a few minutes off of my times I will be basking in the glory of improvement and self worth!!

Have a wonderful weekend Lam:)

Rio said...

Great post. I usually run alone because of my busy schedule. I race to motivate me to keep training and improving. Running with others (or the potential of running with others) certainly lends a new dynamic to the training process!

marathonmaiden said...

great post! as a middle of the pack runner i can see it from both sides: i have people who say that they don't want to run with me because i'm "too fast" or "run too many miles" than they can handle and yet i'm still intimidated by other runners and am scared myself to run with them for fear of not being able to keep up.

i love that you look at speed as a spectrum rather than a black and white issue. and i absolutely LOVE that you are are willing & actually do help out other with your knowledge and get them to a better / faster / healthier place. rock on :)

stay warm yourself because youre right it's soooo cold out there!!

Anne said...

I really enjoyed this post...being a beginner and a late bloomer...I am definitely slow. I'm feeling inspired! :)

nyflygirl said...

Well as you know, I am not intimidated by you, as we have run together on occasion ;-) You do understand that we weren't always at the level we are now...or there are times, like injury recovery,, where we take a step back and work our way back up again...and respect that.

And you know that I always complain about not being able to keep up on runs :-P...i think for me it's the issue of finding others who follow my way of taking hard days hard and easy days easy. And believe it or not, some have said to me-based on my race times-that "oh you're fast, i cant run with you"...i dont mind slowing down in training and being social at all!!

See you tonite... :)

Jocelyn said...

Well you are speedy mcspeederson. As a 10 minute miler I look to you as inspiration. I don't think I could run very long with you, but i like reading about your speed and about how an 8 minute pace is a slower run for you. I wouldn't say I was intimidated, just impressed. Never feel ashamed that you run fast...I never feel ashamed that i run slow! You rock! keep it up

Julie said...

Hi Lam,
Well, I am so relieved to hear that you did leave me a comment and it just didn't get saved..BOO:) I was like sniff, sniff and tear gently falling down my cheek becuase you didn't read my post race recap!! I thought that maybe you were mad because I was razzing you about writing poetry:)

Anyway, thanks for the comment and your words of encouragement...I appreciate it:) Hey, my husband has had a few head hunters trying to steal him from his current job...he asked me how I would feel about moving to either Boston or New York. I will write a post on that some time in the future. Nothing is set in stone and it might take a year for any final decisions to be made. I may be asking you a few questions about NY in general if you don't mind. I hope you have a great day Lam:)

A Marathoner said...

Very thoughtful post. I enjoyed it.

Morgan said...

"we all experience the same joy when we crush a PR, the same pain when we hit the wall, the same sorrow when we come close but fall short at a goal, and the same happiness when others achieve success in their events."

So utterly true and yet sometimes I think we loose sight of this in the long scheme of things. I have met and ran with quite a few people slower than me and I've happily cooled my pace to enjoy the comraderie of a good run together. On the flip side I have challenged myself to keep up with faster runners I admire and got my @ss handed to me on a platter. In both scenario's I walked away happy for the experience.

Great post today and I think you've enlightened many a runner today. Can't wait for this big announcement!!! Maybe I'll go chase around a gorilla to pass the time...

Michelle said...

Lam, so very well written post. You are so supportive of ALL runners and to me that makes you a great person, friend and RUNNER!

I think you need to embrace your talent as a runner and if you can help others to embrace their running you have succeeded it doing what you are trying to do.

Rambling here, but you get my point right???

RUN LIKE YOU MEAN IT LAM!!!

carpeviam said...

I've been known to slow down to meet other's pace needs. It just makes me appreciate my solo runs. But, I've always wondered about those in running groups, as I've never joined one, myself.

Andrew is getting fit said...

You give me hope that one day I will discover some speed!

pigtailsflying said...

Leslie, this is not a blog post, this is a personal essay! Your thesis:
"I want to inspire people to view speed not as a dichotomy (fast and slow) but as a continuum bounded by nothing but your own imagination, dedication, and hard work."
I love that notion. Consider me converted, though to be honest I think I already believed it but I hadn't yes articulated it as such.

B.o.B. said...

Great post Lam and I am happy to see a fast guy like yourself being so modest. It makes me feel more comfortable when I hang out with the speedies.

Cant wait for the big announcement. Hm. Are you running the "gorilla" with me and Red? ;)

Christina said...

Looking at your times you are very fast and I too would be intimidated. Us slower people worry about being too slow for people as fast as you. But if I occasionally could run with you, knowing that it would help me improve, then I would jump on that opportunity.

jenna is awkward said...

i wasn't intimidated before...but now i am! you're an awesome guy and i look forward to being completely intimidated by you on our first queens run.

lindsay said...

dude i've always thought you were an amazing runner. i can understand how some people feel a little intimidated to run with you - i know i'd feel bad for making you run "so slow". i do like how you are humble and your nose isn't stuck in the air about it. i think you'd run with someone of any pace (and then go tack on a fast 20 after) ;)

sneakersister said...

I love this post!!

Betsy said...

I had a long talk with my son this morning about what it would mean to finish a race last. We agreed that it would be sad and disappointing. I also told him that the person who finishes the slowest also has reason to be proud. They kept going, even though it was hard and even though they knew they wouldn't win. Anyone who perseveres through something difficult is an athlete, no matter when they cross the finish line.

 
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