Run Your Own Race: Going Slower to Go Further

I am not a natural athlete. After running my first half marathon this spring, I called my mom who said, “There was nothing in your childhood that would ever indicate you would be athletic. I mean, ever.” So there’s that.

Cardio shortcomings aside, I followed a pretty typical Gen X checklist of college, career hopping, graduate school, more career hopping to reach desired titles and salaries. That path my mother could believe since I used to sit at our kitchen table with her rolodex, a pad of paper, an unplugged phone and play office. (My brother used to fill in the blanks on ledger sheets and now he’s a CFO. I’m not sure if our hobbies were fortuitous or if we were just really bored.)

When I started running last year, I assumed it was mind over matter. My plan was simple: run as fast as I could for as long as possible and then collect a shiny medal. But my pace quickly settled on light-joggy and I lurched along with a not-so-glamorous gait.

During a race, I would tuck in behind other runners and use them for pacing and comparison. At a 12Ks of Christmas run last December, I was in an all-out sprint to the finish line because an older woman (in a Christmas sweater) was ahead of me. Bah humbug.

And even as I pushed myself harder and went longer, I couldn’t fully appreciate my milestones. Whether it was 3.1 or 13.1 miles, I always had a mental measure chipping away at my victories because I didn’t finish without stopping.

I was never satisfied and, after a while, I burned out. So after returning from a long vacation this summer, I started running a few miles a few days a week just to be in the fresh air.

I recently began working with a cardio coach who is teaching me about running to my heart rate, not the clock. Endurance, she said, is the goal. “Run your own race,” she said. That meant getting out of my head, which is not easy for this home-grown nerd.

To test this, I signed up for another race and showed up at the start line without my trusty GPS to tell me the miles and count the minutes. I was full of adrenaline even though my feet were going slow. As I watched people stream by me, it became a course of mental endurance. I had to release all my have-to’s and slow down in a crowd of hundreds.

It was hard to see so many costumed strangers pass me. First the women in tutus and then the stroller joggers went by. I stayed ahead of (most of) the dogs. Small victories. Then after a mile or so, I started passing those same people. Not because I was going fast but because I was still going.

medalI crossed the finish line in the rain with my slowest time ever and happily collected my medal. I finally ran my own race. By going slower than I ever did, I went further than I ever have.


10 thoughts on “Run Your Own Race: Going Slower to Go Further

  1. Last week, I registered for my first half marathon (the aptly named SeaWheeze in August 2016). I hate running. I figure I have 11 months to train or come up with a stellar excuse for backing out. Tonight, I did Day 1 of Couch to 5k. I’ve got a long way to go, and your posts are a welcome reminder of reality. Instead of investing in a nice watch, I’m thinking I need an inspirational coach instead!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I started with Couch to 5K as well when I did my first race. I finally learned that while I don’t love running, I love having run. My whole day is lifted and I feel like a badass, no matter how sloppy the run. My friend and I always say, “We’re lapping the people on the couch.” Keep seawheezing, sister!


  2. Hey Kristin !!

    I loved this post / this one actually brought tears to my eyes because I struggle with exercise too and also with the mental “have to” attitude.

    Keep running, keep writing, keep living ! You are inspiring me with every vulnerable, revealing post you write.



  3. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon! The tortoise wins the race, never the hare:))

    Slower is faster and if the goal is not to stop, find your sweet spot pace and don’t stop! You can do it!

    Great blog Kristin and here is to you finding your running sweet spot!

    “When I was faster I was always behind.”
    -Neil Young from his song SloPoke

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I ran my first half-marathon last Dec. with a fundraising goal of $18,000 and an avowed “I hate running” mantra. But the charity is a group that supports my son’s rare chromosomal disorder and I couldn’t find a better reason to both run (ugh) and ask for money ($18 bucks from a thousand people.) While I didn’t hit the full money goal, I did raise $7,000 and I ran more miles with each training race than I had ever run in my life. All because my 11-year-old is a little slower than the rest of us.

    Hope to see you at the 2016 Seattle Rock’n’Roll. If I can pull it off, you’ll find me at the Chromosome 18 Charity Tent with a large team of newbie runners!


    • Cherylynne – You are a rock star! What an amazing feat and what an amazing mama you are. I have a 12yo son on the autism spectrum and I would run for him any day of the week.

      And, yes, I’m already signed up for the 2016 RnR and worried about training already. Lemme know if you join any training groups or ever want to run with a very sloooow person. My best to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime: The Cycle of Connections | A Year of Life

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