No Such Thing As Too Slow

Being back in Ireland for an extended period of time after a long pandemic break means I finally have the chance to truly connect with some of the amazing women who are running the trails and the mountains here – not afraid of a little rain, wind, bog or muck. It’s great to share some miles, swap stories and get to know the people behind some of the race results, Strava profiles and running photos.

It turns out that just like ‘normal people’, we’re all very different and very similar at the same time. We all have different backgrounds, different family situations, different jobs and different ways to go about our training. But at the same time we share this one thing: our love for the mountains, for running, for being outside.

And oh, there’s one more thing: we all think we’re too slow. We often start apologising before we’ve even started to run, explaining how we’re aware that we’ll probably be holding the other person back.

I’m so sorry, I know you usually run much faster than this.

Are you sure you want to do this? Feel free to push on.

This is embarrassing – don’t wait for me, my downhill running is awful.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I do this as well (that last example is 100% me). The question is: why? Are we really that worried about interfering with someone else’s training? Do we feel like we need to prove ourselves all the time? Are we afraid that people might think less of us if we’re not running fast enough? Do we want to get our excuses in early, just in case it turns out we’re having a bad day?

Whatever’s behind this tendency to apologise for our pace, I think it’s about time we stop doing that – for several reasons.

1) It’s not a race. If your running buddy really wanted to run at their fastest possible pace and get some new personal bests, they would’ve signed up for a race. But they didn’t; they chose to run with you because they enjoy your company. (Disclaimer: some people do try to turn every single run into a race. My strategy is to either beat them once and for all if that’s at all possible, and if there’s no chance of winning: they’d better have some really good snacks ready when I see them at the car park.)

2) You are more than your pace. Being a fast runner doesn’t mean you’re a good training partner – there’s so much more to it than just your pace. I’ve run with some incredibly strong runners who’d drive me mad by complaining all the time, making a two hour run feel at least twice as long. And I’ve run with people who may have needed a couple more breaks here and there, but who made the miles fly by with their jokes, chats, and their ability to just jog along for a while without saying too much. It certainly is a good idea to be roughly at the same level so that no one needs to be carried back to the start point, but your pace is not the most important thing – especially when you’re going for a relaxed run on the trails.

3) We’re all different. There’s no denying that there are faster and slower runners. But there’s also no denying that there are people who work 60 hours and people who work 20 hours, people with young families and people who have a lot of time to themselves, people who’ve been running for decades and people who’ve just started to make running a part of their daily lives. That only goes to show that even though you might be slower than someone else, you don’t need to apologise for that. Ever. We’re all just doing what we can, and that’s enough.

So when you’re out for a run with someone and you’re both having a good time, enjoying the hills, the fresh air and the company, there’s no such thing as too slow. If anyone ever makes you feel like you have to apologise for your running, they’re probably not the best training partner for you. And that’s ok – more snacks at the finish for you.

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