How slow is too slow and does it really matter?

There has been a bit of a theme going on lately with some of our runners thinking that they are ‘slow’ runners. I wanted to dispel some of the myths that you may have about running and what exactly makes a ‘fast’ runner anyway. I know that in a forum like RMA with over 6000 members  there are going to be many posts that boast times and paces and they may make some members feel like they are ‘slower’ or less adequate in their running pace. Let me firstly say that no, this is not the case and HELLO….If you are out there you are doing one better than anyone laying on the couch!

So why all this focus on pace anyway?, well I know myself that when I finish a run the first thing I do is go to my watch and check out my splits. This is not for me to compare with anyone else on RMA, but honestly, it is to compare where I want to be in my training and how it is all going. RMA is a forum where we encourage these posts, not to boast, but because it is a place where we can celebrate with anyone, no matter how fast or slow the pace PROGRESS, HARD WORK and DETERMINATION.

Now I wanted to touch on the myth about fast runners anyway. When I started running competitively I used to think that anyone who could maintain a 5.30/km pace over the course of a marathon was a fast runner. Now after a few years of hard work and training and having being able to accomplish that myself I now know that that pace is indeed not a ‘fast’ pace in terms of marathon running. My coach can maintain a 4minute pace over 100km so Im thinking I’m a little off in the pace stakes. But here is the thing….pace is relative. A fast pace is something that is relative to one, the event you are training for, two your genetic make up, gender and age and three, significant training. If you were to put me against a 100m sprinter who was built with fast twitch muscle fibres and had been training for years at their event, then I can guarantee that I would come dead last against them. But put them up against me and in a 60km road run and I would beat them hands down. Why is that? Because we are MADE DIFFERENTLY, TRAIN DIFFERENTLY AND ADAPT DIFFERENTLY.

Pace is relative to an event also. So for example my 10k pace is slower than my 5k pace which is faster than my half marathon pace which is faster than my marathon pace and again my ultra marathon pace. Of course I am trying to increase my pace for each of these events, but the pace that I aim to maintain in any given event is going to be different. Does that mean that when you run a half marathon in 2.30 and I run one in 1.50 that I am a better runner than you?, no, it simply comes down to my makeup in being able to use my muscles efficiently, my training and my adaption to the pace/distance relationship.

Here are some things that I have found about pace:

Slower the pace = You can go further. When I ran my last ultra event I struggled with the thought that I could be the slowest person out there on the course. Having not run an ultra distance like that before I really was unsure how to pace myself, so I decided that pace was something that I needed to understand in relation to this kind of distance. The aim of the pace for this event was to conserve my energy to go the distance. That meant that I was running pretty much almost 1 1/2 to 2 minutes slower than I would for a 10k pace per kilometre to be able to sustain my energy to go the distance. Having done the race I think that I was pretty much spot on for the type of terrain and distance I ran, however I could have taken less walk breaks now that I look back!. I really think that pace is something that you as an individual decides based on your needs and the event you are running. If you find that you are a comfortable slower paced runner, perhaps ultra distances are your cup of tea!

Nobody is really watching. In a race nobody is really concerned with anybody else’s pace other than their own. Everyone is hard working to get to the finish and one way or another they are going to get there, whether it is going to take them an hour or 4 hours, most people will cross the line and the thing they will remember is not their pace, but that they finished.

You can get faster if you want to. The best way to increase your pace is with practice. It’s not going to come unless you put in the hard work. This means intervals, speed sessions, fartlek drills. Long slow running is not your answer to increasing pace. So if you are really concerned about your running pace, get out there and start doing some of these drills to increase your speed. It will take some time to adapt to this change, and of course see your doctor before changing any part of your exercise regime to make sure you are fit and healthy to take on the extra pressure that interval training can put on your body.

How slow is slow anyway? I think the answer is the slowest person is the person doing nothing. If you are out there having a go, that is an amazing achievement in itself and you should be proud of doing your best. The main thing is are you enjoying running? Does it fulfil you? Yes, it may seem hard but are you getting something out of it that you desire?

Does pace really matter? I think if you are competing competitively yes it can matter, but who it really should matter to is the individual. You will know what pace you are comfortable with and where you strive to go with pace and you can set your own goals working towards change if you desire, otherwise putting one foot in front of the other is the first step to success.

5 responses to “How slow is too slow and does it really matter?

  1. Great article about pace Nicole. I am the type of runner who is good at staying at a slow steady pace. It has taken me a long time to appreciate that can be a good thing and can be beneficial for running longer distances.

  2. I call my running style the Cliff Young Gumboot Shuffle – I didn’t start running til the age of 45 and don’t think my pace is ever going to speed up and I’m lucky to get 1km in less than 7mins but hey I figure that doing that is better than nothing, but it does put me off running events where everyone streams past me!

  3. I can keep running alot further if my pace is a little slower. At my age I dont think its going to get any faster so I just enjoy what I can do.

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