These days I am pretty comfortable with where I am as a runner. Not surprisingly, this was not always the case. As many runners have done, I had doubts about whether or not running was for me during the first few years of my running career…ok, I still have those thoughts, but they happen very rarely now. This is due in part through my work at becoming comfortable with where I am in relation to others and in relation to myself. Prior to this work, my doubts about running tended to revolve around my pace. How slow I was relative to others, or how slow I was relative to my pace on the same run the previous week. As I began to progress in my running, I realized that my use of slow needed to evolve and that I still wanted to be able to use it as a descriptor without the baggage.
Slow tends to be a word that is used in a negative way to describe a runner. In particular, it tends to be a way that runners negatively refer to themselves. That was certainly so for me at the beginning. My wife, Jameson Clover, played a huge role in helping me change my thought process. From the work she was doing to help transform her own thought process, I learned one of the key ideas: the act of reframing a negative thought process into a positive one. One of the most important reframings I ever did was to change from comparing myself to my very talented wife to a process of growth. I am slower than she is, and while it has never been a massive point of tension for me, it did take me time to truly become comfortable with being slow(er). This also led to being more comfortable in all of my abilities as a runner, as well as truly staying within the moment of each run. Most recently it has helped transform my feelings on climbing to the point where I enjoy it! It would be remiss for me to not bring up the help that reading the Happy Runner provided, and the wisdom given to me by my good friend Danielle Snyder regarding reframing. Both of these provided the space for me to truly begin transforming slow from a negative word to a more matter of fact term used only when it is factually true.
Let’s look at group runs to really dig into what I mean by a matter of fact versus negative terms. For many of us, joining a group run can be intimidating. What pace will the group run at? Will people judge me for slowing the group down? Will it be too hard for me? Am I going to negatively impact the group’s experience because of my slowness? When slow is being used as a negative term, these thoughts tend to end with, I am too slow to run with a group, so I will just run by myself. Once you are able to transition to slow as a matter of fact term free from judgment, then you can provide the space to change that final decision to join a group run. Slow simply becomes a way to relay information to the rest of the group, which by itself is an important component of being part of a group run. Everyone needs to know that a) you may be a little slower than some or all of the group, and b) you are ok with that. Being able to use slow as a descriptor rather than a judgment of your ability means that sometimes you will not need to use it at all. Additionally, and perhaps even more beneficial, removing judgment from the word also makes it easier to use when we may need to slow down due to an injury.
I want to circle back to the Happy Runner, and one of the important pieces it talks about: enjoying the process of running. Essential to enjoying that process is becoming comfortable with where you are at “in the moment.” These moments are fluid, ever-changing, and that is pretty fantastic since otherwise running might be a boring endeavor. What this means specifically regarding what we are discussing in this article is that slow becomes not only relative to others but also relative to the various moments within your run. This means that using slow in a factual manner only, and not as a judgment, becomes ever more important to your enjoyment of running. It also means that you can be slower than the person you are running with, but faster than you were the day before on the same run, and both are perfectly awesome!