I got a very interesting reaction from people when I described myself recently as a "slow runner." There is a twice monthly event on Twitter called #runchat, which is a sort of moderated discussion where the organizers ask 5 questions and then people give their answers. Its a great way to interact with other runners on Twitter and find some interesting and passionate people who are out there running. There are ultra marathoners and noobs, fast and slow even a famous coach like Bart Yasso joins on occasion. The chat starts with people tweeting an introduction. Last night's chat I introduced myself as a "slow runner," because, well, I am.
I am slow and I am ok with that. Those of you who have read my blog know that I'm typically much closer to the back of the pack than I am to the front. Now, I'm certainly not the slowest person out there most of the time, but it would be stretching the meaning of the word to call me quick. I understand this and I have no problems with it. I realize that for me, improvement is my race. Getting stronger, running farther and yes, running faster are my goals. But I don't ever expect to be winning any prizes. I am slow and will likely always be slow.
Now, when I said this, I got several encouraging replies that were meant to reaffirm my confidence, but admonishing me for calling myself slow. The gist of most of them were "a runner is a runner and it speed doesn't matter. you're out there and doing it, that's what matters." What struck me is that describing myself as slow seemed to trigger to people that I needed this reinforcement. I doubt that if someone described themselves as a fast runner, that the same people would jump in and say "its ok, you're still a runner to us!"
Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate the words of encouragement. One of the things that I really enjoy about the #runchat's and the running community in general is the supportiveness of a guy like me. I get a lot of cheers at races, even when I'm finishing at the back of the pack. The fact is, though, that I am at the back of the pack. When we run races, there is a clock for a reason... to measure our speed. My speed is a lot lower than most, so I'm slow. I love being slow. I joke with the volunteers along the route. I try to make those around me smile as I go by. Will I get faster someday? I certainly hope so, but for now, that's who I am. A slow runner, trying to enjoy every moment of it.