. . . and what not to say
Let’s dive right in, shall we? First I’m going to cover some of the things I hear . . . a lot. Because the first one is one I hear all the time.
What not to say to a slow runner
Speed is relative
No sh*# sherlock! Well, that’s a bit of an over-reaction, perhaps. but I hear this all the time. Do you think that we don’t already know that?
You’re faster than everyone on the couch
It’s kind of patronizing, don’t you think? Seriously, how would you feel if someone said that to you when you whined about a bad run or race?
Have you ever tried _________ (speedwork, hills, etc.)? That’s what worked for me.
Yes, yes, and yes. Granted, not all slow runners care about pace and may or may not work to get faster. But many of us do care, and we work damn hard. Are you a coach? If you aren’t, and we didn’t specifically ask for your advice, just bite your tongue until we do.
I was slow when I began, but then I did ________ (speedwork, hills, etc.) and I got a lot faster
See above. Maybe your new friend has done all that. I did for years. And for years I seemed stuck at about the same pace. And even though I’m faster now, I’m still not fast.
I’d love to run with you sometimes
This one can really be a bit dicey. Can you really slow down that much? Do you think that your new buddy will be able to hang with you at your current pace? Are you inviting her to a group, where you’ll be running with your friends — at your usual pace?
Some runners don’t mind bringing up the rear. I know when I’m running with friends and I’m the only person running by myself, sometimes that really sucks.
I’d love to do my easy runs with you
If you are willing to run at least near the pace of the slower runner, that’s wonderful. Just don’t rub in the fact that it’s so easy for you — chances are she’s running a little faster than normal and making it clear how easy it is for you can be a bit demoralizing to the slower runner.
Oh, I’m really slow too
Seriously, this one annoys the heck out of me, and it’s another one I get all the time. Usually after I’ve said I’m slow and said what pace I run. It just shows me that you are either not listening to me or you think you’re being empathetic because I just told you what pace I ran, so you know that I’m way slower than you.
I understand that this is just a knee jerk reaction for a lot of women, but I can also tell you as a slower runner, it’s totally annoying — to me, at least. Just be honest. Own your power (which may or may not be the subject of a future post).
Right about now you’re probably thinking geez, ain’t she just the most touchy person in the world? Maybe. But I’ll bet you other slower runners get it. I tried to see if I could find some other posts on this subjects, but a quick search didn’t reveal quite what I was looking for.
I did stumble across a blog post loving on slower runners, which the blogger actually defined as a runner running an 11 mm or more. I fall quite solidly into that cateogry.
So what can you say to a slow runner?
What are you training for?
This one just simply shows interest. Seriously, what runner doesn’t love to talk about their next race (often whether they’re prompted to or not).
How long have you been running?
This one is often a gateway to the runner’s life story — be warned!
Why did you decide to start running?
Most runners love to talk about why they started to run. It’s another question that can lead you to learn about the runner and their life. Just try to be careful of your tone — we can be sensitive (obviously!) — and some might hear this as “just why would someone like you be running anyway”?
Have you ever done _________ race?
This one is good if you know that the runner actually races. It’s another leading question that can help you bond over potentially shared experiences.
What’s your favorite race?
Again, could appear patronizing if you don’t know if the runner races, but if you know they do, then it will probably lead to other topics and you never know, again, you might learn about an awesome new race.
What’s your favorite race distance?
Follow up with why they like that particular race distance.
Where is your favorite place to run?
I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for new places to run! And your new buddy might just know some new-to-you place.
Do you prefer running on the road or on trails?
Maybe you’ll find out that you both love running on trails, and you’ll find some great new trails or trail races or groups. Maybe you are both very different, but no doubt this question will spark some interesting conversatons (and the obvious follow ups of why?).
You can see that slow or fast, there is an awful lot that all runners have in common and will discuss until the wee hours, if given the opportunity.
I hope that I’ve helped you see how some of the questions and statements meant to be kind and encouraging sometimes are not perceived that way. Again, not all runners care about pace (fast or slow), but it’s very easy to hurt someone while having the best intentions in the world.
What “encouragement” do you hate, whether you’re fast or slow?
What do you ask new runners you’re meeting for the first time?
Do you prefer running solo or in groups?