You probably know the fable, “The Tortoise and The Hare.” The tortoise challenges the hare to a race. Confident and speedy, the hare quickly overtakes the tortoise. He is soon so far in the lead that he stops to take a nap – but he awakens to find that the tortoise has beaten him to the finish line because slow and steady wins the race.
I am the tortoise. Only in my case, I’m not winning any races.
How slow am I? Well, I guess that depends on your definition of slow. I’m no Al Roker (who, by the way, I think is awesome for finishing a marathon). But to qualify for Boston, I’d have to shave nearly TWO HOURS off my PR. Even if I was 80 years old, I still wouldn’t qualify with my current marathon finishing time. I’m serious.
Most of the time, I’m not too concerned with my speed and am truly proud of the accomplishment when I cross the finish line. But every once in a while, it just kind of bugs me that I can’t seem to make my body go faster. I start comparing myself to other runners. I look at the amazing runners in my training group – runners of all ages, shapes, and sizes. They run with such grace and make it seem so deceptively effortless – and then it starts to bug me a little that I’m always at the back of the pack, struggling just a tiny bit to keep up.
Then I read all these incredible running blogs, written by strong, talented women who could run circles around me, women who actually place in races (imagine that!).
And then I make things even worse by comparing myself to my husband. He’s not “a runner.” He dislikes running. Yet he can maintain a 8:00-9:00 pace for 8 miles. Eight. Miles. I can run an 8:30 mile too – but only one of them, and at the end of it I’m gasping for breath and ready to puke. My comfortable pace is somewhere around 10:30-11:30, which places me solidly in the middle-rear of the pack.
Most runners are very welcoming & supportive. Most non-runners are impressed that I’ve run a marathon. But sometimes I see the judgment creep into their eyes, and I hear it in their voices when they tell me that I “didn’t do too bad” or that my finishing time was “still pretty respectable.”
Are you freaking kidding me? I ran 26.2 miles. Anyone who can do that deserves a hell of a lot more credit than “pretty respectable” or “not too bad.” Especially when it comes from someone who can’t run one mile – or even from someone who’s never run more than 10. The point is, if you’ve never run 26.2 miles, you have no business judging my finish time. And even if you have run those 26.2 miles yourself, you’re treading on thin ice by offering your unsolicited opinion. Unless your opinion is that I’m awesome.
But I digress. And I’m probably preaching to the choir anyway. I guess my point is that I’d like to be faster, but I don’t know if my body is even capable of it. Is it possible for a slowish runner to become significantly faster? Especially a runner of, ahem, a certain age? I don’t know if I’ll ever run a half marathon in under 2:30 or a full marathon in under 5:00. And is it important? Most days I’d say no. What really matters is doing my best and challenging myself to become better – right?
But I have to be honest and admit that every once in a while, I’d really love to be the hare.