I saw this meme posted on the internet the other day and it made me laugh right out loud. You see, I’m a slow runner. Really slow. As in “some people can walk faster than I can run” slow. I have this sort of shuffling gait that uses the absolute minimum amount of energy to keep me technically running but not much more. 75-year old women and mothers pushing double strollers have passed me in races (true story). Yes, I’m that slow. But I am undeniably faster than someone sitting on the couch.
Here’s the thing: I really like being a slow runner. There’s no pressure when you’re behind everyone else. Nobody expects you to win or even place. It’s always easy to beat your last time. If you take a walk break, there’s nobody around to see you. Most people don’t realize this because they’re too busy trying to shave 30 seconds off their PR – but the back of the pack is a great place to be.
There are so many reasons I love running. For starters, it clears my mind and I always feel good afterwards. Some of my best ideas have come while I was out running (and I’m getting really good at getting Siri to take dictation). But really, it’s the little things that keep me coming back over and over:
- The feeling I get when I’m in the car, listening to the radio, and one of my favorite running songs comes on…and suddenly I can’t wait to get home and put my shoes on. That’s a great feeling.
- Early mornings, just after the sun rises and nobody else is up…that’s my favorite time of day in general and when I’m able to run at that time, well, I feel like the entire world was created just for me.
- The euphoria that washes over me when I’ve gotten my breathing and feet perfectly into sync and there’s a light breeze blowing and a great running song comes on…ahhhh, sheer perfection.
- Becoming so engrossed in my thoughts that I forget what I’m doing and end up running farther than I thought I could.
- Running outdoors, on a quiet day, without music and just listening to the sound of my feet and my breathing and giving thanks to the Universe for blessing me with a body that has taken a lot of abuse and is still able to bounce back and thrive.
This list has nothing to do with my speed or skill as a runner and everything to do with enjoying running for exactly what it is, right in that moment. Being a slow runner has encouraged me to think about running differently than other people. For example, I aspire to run a 35 minute 5K someday, which might seem painfully slow to some. But it’s clear to me that my speed (or lack thereof) is actually a gift, one that has allowed me to truly experience the joy of running without the burden of competition. If I choose to compete, it’s with myself and nobody else. My performance is all my own and I’m on a completely level playing field. There’s no feeling like it in the world – once the expectations are removed, it’s unbelievably easy to just experience the joy of movement and the freedom to test your limits without fear of failure. It’s almost decadent.
In running and triathlon, race organizers love to put entrants into buckets. There are buckets for pro, elite, age group, masters, and so on. Some races line you up at the starting line according to your expected pace. And then there are the races with categories for heavier men and women: Clydesdale and Athena.
I think the men got the short end of the stick here. While a Clydesdale most certainly represents strength and power, it also evokes the picture of an enormous beast of burden clomping around on huge feet and dragging a wagon of beer. But a Greek Goddess? Heck yeah! A voluptuous woman in long flowing robes, wavy hair cascading down her back, a benevolent smile upon her face…that’s a nice image. Perhaps I should be insulted at the thought of being put in a separate athletic category because I weigh more than 150 pounds, but the goddess association kinda takes the sting out of it.
Athena runners aren’t all slow, and not all slow runners are Athenas. I will probably always be both. Athena was the goddess of many things, including Wisdom, Strategy and Strength. Her best buddy was Nike, goddess of Victory. I’m proud to be associated with either of these lovely ladies, I’m proud to be slow, and I’m proud to be a runner.
If you want to show your Athena Pride, check out the Running With Curves t-shirt shop HERE.