Are You a Slow Runner? That's Ok!

Some runners think that speed is everything. Sure, running fast is super fun! But what if you aren’t fast? Are there benefits to slow running? Or, if you are a slow runner, is it even worth it? Should you give up and try something else?

Sadly, many people judge themselves a “non-runner” if the time on the watch is not as fast as they feel it should be. Guess what? A mile is a mile.

It doesn’t matter if you are running a 6-minute mile or a 12-minute mile. It is all forward motion. There are even training programs that encourage you to slow down in order to run faster.

Does It Matter If I Run Slow?

When a self-proclaimed slow runner asks if it matters if they run slow, it’s important to put speed into perspective. If you’re just starting out, there is no such thing as slow or fast. You’re just running and figuring things out.

running slow

As you grow and progress as a runner, speed becomes relative to prior accomplishments. For example, if you start out running a 12-minute mile and work your way down to a 10-minute mile, that is fast for you.

When you decide to do a miracle mile and pop out an 8:40, that is an exciting accomplishment!

What Is A Miracle Mile?

A miracle mile is when you set out to run a mile as fast as you can in order to see what you are capable of. You warm-up, run like hell, then cool down.

Some people do the MM every six to eight weeks just to see where they are at in their running. What does this have to do with running slow?

Well, as I said, slow is relative.

How Often Do You Run?

You also need to consider how often you are running. If you are a streak runner, for example, and never take a rest day you might find you slow down as the week goes on.

To be clear: you can be a streak runner and still “rest.” On “rest days,” a streak runner goes only one mile and makes a conscious effort to run very, very slow.

You may find that running 3-4 days a week help you to run faster than if you run 5-7 days a week. However, then you also need to ask yourself: does it matter?

Why Do You Run?

The next thing to consider is, “why do you run?”. If you run to improve your cardiovascular health, then your heart does not care how fast you’re running or if you’re improving. Ideally, you want to exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days each week in order to keep optimal heart health.

Anything from tennis to fast walking, swimming to running counts as cardio. While your heart does know if you’re barely moving, your heart is not picky about the type of exercise you are doing.

It just knows you’re getting your heart rate elevated and that’s what matters.

If you run for stress relief, speed does not matter. Pounding the pavement to release tension or to relieve stress does not have to be fast: although, it could be.

running benefits 2

Maybe you run for the social aspects. If that is the case you may vary your pace depending on the company you are keeping on that particular day.  Many people love to attend group runs for the company. This may mean slowing down with friends, or it could mean picking up your normal pace to keep up.

If you have running goals beyond just getting out there, you may find slow running frustrating. However, did you know that most runners do not run their easy, long run slowly enough? Believe it or not, if you want to train like an elite you should be logging some super slow miles.

Of course, your idea of super slow is (and should be) way different than that of an elite runner.

Will Running Slow Make Me Faster?

There are many coaches who buy into the concept of slowing down to speed up. While that sounds counterproductive, there is some true merit behind it.

First, if you are running slower you may find that you can run more miles than if you are running harder. Yes, you could end up logging more miles and still stay injury-free. In the long run, this could help you reach your running goals more quickly.

As you continue to train at an easier pace you could find that you have gained the ability to run faster than you were aware. Many runners who are logging a bunch of easy miles often toe the line for a recreational run and are shocked to find themselves owning a shiny, new personal record.

Why? Most people find that the more they run the faster they seem to get. Personally, my fastest 5K was posted shortly after I ran my first marathon. Why? Well after plodding along for double-digit runs and logging high mileage weeks, jumping down to lower mileage and getting fresh legs left me ripe for a PR!

Just like anything the more you do it, the better you get at something.

Why Is My Pace Getting Slower?

If you suddenly find yourself running slower there are many potential reasons.

  1. Are you training differently? Less mileage? Did you ditch the speed work? Are you suddenly logging way more miles than normal? If something has changed dramatically with your training that could be the culprit.
  2. Are you sleeping enough? Inadequate sleep can cost you dearly in regards to performance.
  3. How is your nutrition? Are you eating well? Is your iron low? Do you need to take in more carbs?
  4. Have you recently been ill or injured? Most of us don’t give ourselves enough grace to heal when we have been sick or hurt.
  5. Could it be the weather? Some people run great in the cold while others slow down. The same is true for heat.
  6. Are you stressed? The impact of stress on the body is multifaceted and should always be considered.

At What Age Do Runners Slow Down?

older runner

According to the data, runners start to slow down somewhat as they reach 40. The rate of slowing is not that dramatic, equaling about one percent each year. That rate continues until the runner reaches their seventies.

At age 70 the rate of deceleration starts to become faster and more pronounced.

The Tortoise and The Hare

When it comes down to it whether you are a slow runner or a fast runner, you are beating everyone on the couch. If you want to improve there are a myriad of things you can do in order to speed up your pace. However, pushing yourself to run fast every time you lace up your shoes simply is not necessary in order to improve.

Remember friends, in the words of Mary Schmich: “The race is long and in the end, it is only with yourself.”

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