. . . when you begin
I can still truthfully call myself a turtle. I am faster, but I am still not fast, and feel no need to change my slogan:
An older, slower runner with a passion for chocolate and half marathons.
In the beginning . . .
. . . almost every runner thinks they’re slow. Most are afraid to join groups because they are afraid of being too slow, being last, getting lost. Even fast runners feel this way. Slower runners, though, get it: this fear is legitimate for them.
I once made a friend because I joined a group run and we lost the pack — and just plain got lost. Did I mention it was dark and cold, too? She could have easily kept up with the pack, but I couldn’t. If some kind runners hadn’t come and run us back in we might still be there today.
Eventually, though, most of us either lose our fear of being last or embrace it, if not actually welcome it, if it happens to us. We fall in love with running — could take days, months, or possibly years. But we do. And if running at the back of the pack is our fate, we may or may not accept that it will stay that way, but we accept that that is where we’ll end up.
Watching your fast friends struggle
Because of blogging I’ve somehow ended up with a lot of fast running friends. They don’t think they’re fast, of course, because few runners do, but to me they most definitely are.
I’ve also watched many of them begin to struggle. And most of the ones struggling have been running far longer than I have. The reasons for their struggles vary, but it’s hard for them to see the paces that once seemed so easy now feel so hard . . . or slip away altogether.
I started out late in life, and I started out so slow, and I’ve been lucky to see improvement when it comes to pace. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had my own struggles, and it doesn’t mean there won’t be struggles ahead for me, either.
But when you start out slow, it’s “easier” to see improvement. Not easy, of course, you still have to work for it, but there’s a feeling of you have nowhere to go but up (or down, in your times, that is). Since my first half (throwing out the trail half), I have lowered my time by almost 40 minutes.
It didn’t happen immediately (nope, been running halfs for five years), it wasn’t linear, and there was a lot of hard work in there, too.
Runner friends say all the time that pace is relative, and this is true. Yet they look to their competition, hoping for that age group award. They rejoice when they enter a new age group, because their chances for those age group awards go up. Turtles can only look to themselves, hoping to better themselves.
There can be a lot of power in truly only competing with yourself. Age groups don’t matter, unless maybe it’s a very small race (and even then, I’ve personally never even come close to an age group award). And sometimes there’s also a lot less pressure to perform those paces that are slowly slipping through your fingers.
We turtles work just as hard as the hares. We sweat as much, we’re often pounding the pavement for far longer, and we keep coming back for more despite the lack of awards (but not lack of rewards).
Turtle Power doesn’t mean giving in or giving up
There may be a certain freedom and power in being a turtle, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doomed to be a turtle forever. Your time as a turtle will make you even more appreciative of improving — anything you have to work for so hard is sweeter.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not my intent to disrespect the hares, either. They work as hard as the turtles do, and it has to be very difficult to accept declining race/pace times. No doubt some day I’ll struggle with that same problem.
I can’t say that I love being a turtle, but the large improvements I’ve seen over the years? Gotta love that.
Talk to me:
Did you start out as a turtle? If so, do you still consider yourself a turtle?
How do you keep yourself motivated when you don’t see improvement?
How do you come to terms with declining paces?