Does being fast matter?

Considering I’ve always been a fairly swift runner, my idea for being a good, successful runner centers more around how fast someone is than how far they can run without stopping, or than simply that they’re running at all.

I’m having severe trouble broadening my perspective on this.

When friends and acquaintances tell me they’ve participated in races, or I see mentions of running by people on Facebook, I—like a jerk—almost always Google any possible race results they may have floating around online.

I say “like a jerk” not because I’m simply curious about their times and I’m overly-nosy or something. No, I say “like a jerk” because I simply want to confirm that I’m faster than them.

When I’m out and about and I see people running, I tend to size them up by their form and by how fast they appear to be moving. I’ll often comment to Stephanie how fast or slow someone looks.

Recently I made such a comment about someone I saw running and, presumably because she was tired of hearing me make such comments, Stephanie responded with something that blew my mind:

“Not everyone can run fast, and not everyone wants to run fast.”

My instant reaction—“THAT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME!”—took aim at the latter part of her statement.

Not everyone wants to run fast.

What??? How can someone NOT want to run fast? I mean, seriously: HOW CAN SOMEONE NOT WANT TO RUN FAST???

That just doesn’t make any sense. Have they ever run fast before? Do they know what it’s like? Why would they not want that for themselves?

My thought process has always been this: if you’re not trying to run fast, or at least become faster, why are you even running? What’s the point???

This is where I need to stop and take a look outside of myself, as hard as it might be in this instance.

I know some people simply enjoy the simple act of running. I know some people are just trying to get in better shape. I know some people are just getting their cardio in. I know some people are building long distance endurance. I know there are all sorts of reasons people run, with the goal of becoming faster sometimes not among them.

Now, I also know I’m not the fastest out there. I’ve participated in races. I usually finish in the top 3 percent or so of all participants. That’s pretty good, regardless of what I tell myself. But when I’m still 5 minutes slower than the winner of the race, what I tell myself is the truth: there are people who finished faster than me, and until I meet the goals I have for myself, I didn’t finish as fast as I would have liked.

In other facets of life, success is relative to your perspective, your goals, and your motivations. And just like those other facets, success in running, or being a good runner, is no different.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop sizing up anyone else I encounter who runs. And maybe that’s part of my motivation. But I should also take into consideration that the people I size up might not care how fast I run.

This is where I have to remind myself not everyone runs for the same reasons. Again: some people don’t want to be fast. And, again: that makes no sense to me. But it is their prerogative.

My prerogative, however, is to become as fast as I can.

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3 comments

  1. i enjoy running as fast as i can in races. i don’t really understand why (in a race) you wouldn’t go as fast as you possibly can. for me it is about pushing my body to it’s limits and then try to go past that. i’m not the fastest by any means. however, distance is also important to me and i think that there’s something totally different about running 1mi or a 5K in comparison to a marathon, ultra, or even a 1/2 marathon. stamina in the long term is important to me too. i want to go fast for a long time…

    1. The longest race I’ve run is a 7K, which is only 4.3 miles. I trained at longer distances to prepare for it, and I felt like I was pushing my body to its limits. However, those limits felt totally different than the limits I encountered preparing for and running in my 1-mile race. I came away feeling like the limits of distance stamina are totally different than the limits of short-distance max exertion. I’d take short-distance max exertion every time. So good for you on the distance running! That’s something I’m majorly leary of. Have you run a miler before? If not, and you want to test your speed limits, I highly recommend it!

      1. i have not run a miler before. for me short distances just seem pointless. i am pretty sure i can run a 6 minute mile right now if i really tried but i don’t think i would feel much satisfaction out of that. i feel a considerable amount of satisfaction when i am fatigued and still going strong. i like knowing that i can run 18+ miles with minimal effort when i’m not pushing my maximum pace. even in training when i run less than 6 miles i don’t really feel as tho’ i’ve accomplished much. different mind set for sure. i enjoy reading your posts tho’ because you’re the first runner i’ve come across that runs milers and stairs. most of the blogs i read are distance runners.

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