Slow runners deserve some damn respect

I‘ve always been a slow runner, you’ve probably heard me say that before. I’ve been slow at my skinniest, I’ve been slow at my fittest. In fact I don’t think I’ll ever get to a sub 10 minute mile unless I quit my job, divorce my husband and never see my friends again. I’d have to put in some serious woman power and fortunately I have a life to live and other goals I want to achieve. But do you know what, that’s ok. It’s ok to not hit a sub 10 minute mile and still call yourself a runner.

I’ve been slow at my skinniest, I’ve been slow at my fittest.

I think that quick runners have something about them that makes it easier for them. Now, now, stop your eye rolling and hear me out before you say I’m making excuses. My thinking is, it’s the same way that some people can sing, and some are tone deaf, some people can dance and some have two left feet, some people can write and some can’t string a sentence together. I think we can all run, it’s in our DNA to do it, but some of us can run quicker than others more easily. I mean, I’m not the only one to be thinking along these lines, there have been countless scientific studies on people’s athletic ability and whether you’re born with it and it’s natural selection or it’s just all down to hard work. So in that respect us slow runners deserve some respect.

It’s ok to not hit a sub 10 minute mile and still call yourself a runner.

Slow runners who put in the miles. Who put in the training and still sit at 12 minute miles yet stick it out, have grit.

Slow runners who run races with all their heart and cheer on others (even those who lap them) and come back of the pack, show determination.

Slow runners who enter races and take 1hr30mins for a 10K or 6hrs+ plus for a marathon, but do it with a smile on their face, are getting the most out of their entry fee.

Slow runners who run races and are on the course for twice as long as the leaders, who get to water stations to find the water has ran out or the volunteers have gone home, show bravery.

Slow runners who aren’t swayed by the elitist comments and conversation on Twitter and Instagram about what a ‘true runner’ is and what a ‘true runner’ does, know their worth isn’t determined by someone else’s beliefs.

Slow runners who forego Strava, Garmin and Fitbit and just run, because the magic of a good run can never be captured by numbers, show spirit.

Slow runners who own their body, no matter what shape or size or capability show honesty.

Slow runners who run to maintain their health, to show family and friends the joys of regular movement, to de-stress after work or to quieten their anxiety, show self-love.

Slow runners who are respectful to those who overtake them at races, Parkrun or in the street are just decent human beings.

Slow runners who take walking breaks during their Sunday long run are still runners.

Slow runners who have no intention of running a marathon or even half marathon are still runners.

What matters is that all runners, be it a 15 minute mile, or a 6 minute mile are still runners. But slow runners, who running doesn’t come easily to, who are scared to enter races as they don’t want to be last, who are overlooked by some in the running community as they aren’t “serious enough”, still get up at 6am in the morning, lace up their trainers and put in the miles.

What you think is slow might be someone’s dream. We all have our own goals, our own bodies and all know what we’re capable of.

Speed is all relative. And for slow runner, their 12 minute mile might be years of hard work. What you think is slow might be someone’s dream. We all have our own goals, our own bodies and all know what we’re capable of.

So I ask the running community to show us slow runners some damn respect.

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75 Comments

  1. Marcia

    Thank you for your article. Sometimes being slow gets me down and makes me doubt the whole thing. Why bother?
    You run marathons but because it takes you 6 hours its embarassing. You do 50 or 55k but you still dont feel like a runner. Deep down I know I am doing something good for my mind and body, but it still hurts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. MRS PAMELA HARVEY

      I’ve always been slow, it used to bother me, and I hated the saying ‘You’re faster than the person sat on the sofa!’ I’m more than that, I’m bloody marvellous I got more stamina, more motivation than those who are skinny and do 7 minute miles. I love entering races of all mileage the organisers know I’m slow but they still accept me, so that gives me more motivation to get it done, because they have faith in me! I don’t have the physical body and when I tell my friends I’m running a marathon they give me the look up and down my curvy body and say ‘I don’t think you’ll make it love’ just spurs me on to prove them wrong. While I’m out there running and doubt seeks in I just remind myself of all the challenges I’ve accomplished so far and thank God I did it, which gets me to the finish line. I can never manage a fast mile during a run but somehow I can manage a sprint finish even if I have been running for the last 6 miles, I always pretend to cross the finish line first with a big smile across my face, because really I have, as I only run to get better for myself. So don’t get disheartened we slow runners have more Oomph! Don’t lose it keep pushing and go for it. If you can dream it you can succeed!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Valerie Haddaway

      All that matters is that you do and that it’s for you. I all but walk faster than I can run but that’s what feels good for me so I’m happy for me:)

      Like

  2. cheesecakerunner

    Brilliant post Cat! I’ve always championed slow runners for the exact reasons you’ve shared. You show stamina, grit and determination plus, you have to put up with elitist prejudices from others.

    Go girl …. You got this!

    Helen, Cheesecake Runner

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nicky

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve actually welled up, because this is me, and I’ve always worried about being last. I’m 61, I’ll never be fast, but I have medals that show my grandchildren that I have determination and grit, and I won’t ever give up. From now on I am one proud running grandma x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie Howard

    I am slow, training pace 17min miles. I have been told by 3 hr marathoners that they would not do a 7 hr marathon because it’s a different game, nutrition,breaks and endurance. it takes grit and determination to do hard things. I do hard things.

    Like

  5. J Connorŕ

    This is Bob on! I am a slow runner and very proud of it. I’ve been all but last in a race and nearly quit in one. But 10km is 10km whether if takes 30 minutes or 1hour and 30 or 2 hours, it’s our own race! Thanks.

    Like

  6. Tobi

    I’m going to read this article every single day. I’ve only been running for a couple of years and often want to give up because I don’t have marathon goals or goals of a sub-10 minute mile… hell, I’m still trying to get to a 15 minute mile. I’ve always told myself it was ok and to just run my own race, but I don’t really think I believed it because I do feel inferior to elite runners. So I’m going to read this every day to remind myself to keep running because it brings me joy.

    Like

  7. James Slillern

    I to am a slow runner, being nearer to 14-15 min mile but I keep going happily. I have health problems and getting out there makes me feel good. Most of the fast runners actually shout encouragement at me as they lap me and one comment I heard was that the ones at the back always have the biggest smiles on their face. I normally do 5k, some 10k and a couple at 15 and 25k. Usually one of the last to finish and due to watrer shortages for us usulally use a camel pack for the longer distances. Just go out there and enjoy yourself. Just take the mickey out of anyone who is negatie and listen to the laughter of those with you.

    Like

  8. Blair Bush

    Thanks for this! 12-13 minute miler here and resigned myself to the fact long ago that it will probably be that way forever. Subscribing to your blog! ❤

    Like

  9. Richard Sexton

    Really enjoyed reading this article, Cat; thank you. Four years ago I joined a running group in Tunbridge Wells which has altered my view of Life: I thought that ‘running’ meant going hell for leather as soon as you’d done up the laces on your running shoes. How wrong can a person be?

    It took a fair number of weeks’ worth of admonishment by the inspirational founder of Sarah’s Runners to persuade me that the true joy of running is found by holding yourself to a ‘mellow’ pace: not ‘slow’, mind. We don’t speak in terms of fast or slow. Just whether we can run together, having a little chat as we go. Sometimes, we agree to release the brakes and extend ourselves, but pretty soon, conversation resumes and Mellowness reigns. On the rare occasions I run by myself, I can achieve sub-10 minute miles, but I am here to assure you and your readers that the top of the bell curve of running enjoyment lies above that figure for most of us, me included. The real point is not what time we managed, but how much did we enjoy the run?

    Like

  10. Jackie

    Thank you! I want to hug you.
    I came late to running & took ages to build up my stamina. As long as I went slowly I could do it. 10 years after having open heart surgery I did the London Marathon for BHF. I absolutely loved it! I Trained really thoroughly so no injuries or discomfort but I couldn’t do it quickly. I was so proud of doing it but horrified when I was repeatedly asked for my time! Ridiculous to be embarrassed but I was.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  11. Shawna

    I absolutely love this post and could not agree more!!! And I am a firm believer in different abilities for different people-and it takes all abilities to make the world go round. Again, well said!

    Like

  12. Teresa A Anderson

    Thanks so much for this post–loved it! I only started running at age 61 so am never going to be fast, but it has changed my life all the same.

    Like

  13. Christine Brown

    Your article is fabulous, me completely, I love entering races and especially love a 10km , my asthma and copd was radically improved since learning how to run, running keeps me sane and Alness JogScotland keeps me running, entering a race keeps me motivated.
    My half marathon time is 2:45 and I’ve said to other runners that I may be slow but I have bags of stamina , I love that seasoned athletes are shouting at me “ weldone “ “ keep going “, and yes I’ve always got a big smile on my face at every race finish.
    I started running 4 years ago at age 50 when Alness JogScotland was formed by Ros Jemmett, she alone made me believe that I could learn to run, what I didn’t believe back then, was that I would love it .
    This year is my year of Half marathons starting with Inverness in March. 😊 .

    Like

  14. Betty Grumbein

    I am so very happy that I can move forward! I will keep moving because as long as I do, I can! Thank you for this beautifully written blog!

    Like

  15. Mark Meyers

    It’s fine to ask for respect if you’re a slow runner; if you run regularly you are a runner by definition. But to make an assertion that there is something inherent in faster runners that just makes it easier for them to be fast is disrespectful too, don’t you think. Yes, I am a faster runner, but I have worked very hard my entire life to be faster, and it irritates me that others say it looks effortless. Really? Live my life for a few weeks, and then say it’s easy. I have no issues with individuals who are slower, but if you decide to enter a marathon and haven’t done a lick of training, it is you who are being disrespectful. At some point, running ceases to be running, and becomes something else. If you are doing 18 minute miles, you simply are not running. If I flap my arms, I’m not going to be flying very far, even if I call it that.

    Like

    1. Christy

      I disagree, Mark. You said “But to make an assertion that there is something inherent in faster runners that just makes it easier for them to be fast is disrespectful too”. I disagree that it’s disrespectful… It would, to imply that your current speed is 100% genetic, and your training has no impact or value, which the writer did not. She is asserting, correctly, that everyone starts at a different “base” speed (my word, not hers). In other words… your “jump off the couch and decide to run 3 miles” pace might be significantly different(faster?) than mine, if neither of us had been running recently. Even if we followed the same diet, sleep, and strength training programs. What we do to improve from that point can absolutely be a point of pride, and should not be ignored in the case of “fast” runners who worked hard to get there. But if the measure of running success is running the fastest, then those whose bodies are built for speed absolutely have an inherent advantage. We all carry different advantages and disadvantages throughout life, the writer here is simply pointing out that running fast shouldn’t be left off the list.

      Like

  16. forgedinink

    This is great! I used to think after I would get done with a run and see that my time wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be that it was a bad run. I then saw a quote that said something like: “The only bad run is a run you don’t go on.” It’s then I realized that just doing it was what really mattered no matter how slow or fast I went. Awesome post!

    Like

  17. barb fetters

    “If you are doing 18 minute miles, you simply are not running.” I beg to differ. I ran a 9′ pace in my early 30’s. Now at 65 I am working my butt off to run at a 15′ pace and many days I can’t even do 16′. It frustrates me no end as people pass me like I am standing still when I am going as hard as I can. Look at my face as you pass me–I AM running. Medical and musculoskeletal issues have taken their toll. Not to mention shrinking at least two inches, from a start of 5’3″ on a good day, with more to lose. But I treasure every run, because who knows if it might be my last one.

    Like

  18. Michael Cleveland

    Great article. One of the best race shirts I’ve seen was made for the slow runners. On the back it had a turtle in jogging clothes and it said. “I may be slow but I’m ahead of you.” Every runner out their, regardless of the speed they run is beating all of those who are sitting on the couches. Finishing last in a race beats Did Not Finish (DNF). DNF beats Did Not Start (DNS).

    Like

  19. Liselott

    Motion is everything! Since I got to the menopause the body slowed downed a lot. I used to hit 6.30/ km easy – now Iam happy – really happy – if I get to that speed at all.. But I am still out there – running – and loving it!

    Like

  20. Sue Webster

    What a great piece, a real breath of fresh air, thank you. I’m a slow runner, and I was very conscious about my lack of speed. I only started doing structured exercise activities at the end of 2017 and my C25K was achieved on the treadmill at the gym. After a year of treadmill and running alone I took the plunge and joined a running club. I’m so lucky as everyone is incredibly supportive and friendly and genuinely want to help me. My speed doesn’t really bother me, I’m doing it and even though I may be slow, I still run the same distance as everyone else at the Park Run or club run and I put my heart in to it like everyone else. Slow runners do deserve the same respect as other runners, you’re quite right

    Like

  21. Julie

    Hi Cat. I love your article and shared it on Facebook. My daughter just told me you and her are friends! Charlotte Bithell. I too am a slow runner and love running! I intend to do lots of running this year, enjoying all I do, even when the ‘fast ‘ people over take me, which constantly happens! I shall remember your words! Happy running!! 🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️

    Like

  22. Donald Chang

    I love this.
    I used to say to “slow” runners I once mentored and trained that staying on their feet for so long – north of 5hrs for a marathon, say – was its own heroic feat of endurance. Now at almost age 62, I have to remind myself of my own words. I used to be “moderately fast” when I once qualified for and ran 4 Bostons, ran 3:01 at age 26 and 3:09 at age 45… But that was another running life. I run less, but still run. I run slow, but I still run. And I still revel in being in a crowd at a race and part of a collective demonstration of effort and will and motion and not going gentle into that good night. So yeah, slow runners deserve some damn respect. Always have. They do it for love, not glory.

    Like

  23. Muofhe

    Being a slow runner implies that you respect your body..There’s no point running beyond your physical and functional capacity to catch up with ‘fast runners “.Going beyond what your body can tolerate only leads to injuries and cardiac arrest..Let’s listen to our bodies and avoid overexertion..

    Like

    1. Mark Meyers

      With all due respect, being a slow runner in no way implies that one respects one’s own body. It is simply a description of the pace one runs at. While it is true that going beyond what your body can tolerate leads to injuries (I’m not sure where the cardiac arrest assertion enters in here), it is equally true that stressing the system leads to strengthening it. The key, as you rightly state, it to listen to your body. The pace one runs at says nothing about the moral or ethical makeup of a person, or how one treats their body. If you run slowly because you smoke and eat poorly, how does that imply respect? Reading the comments gives me the feeling that many of those commenting have issues that far exceed how they run. If you run slowly, fine. If you run quickly, equally fine. Find comfort in who you are, and if you’re not comfortable with who you are, work towards what you want to be, and stop looking to others for your own validation.

      Like

      1. C

        Do you realize that in each of your comments there is an underlying assumption that slow runners don’t put in the work? That they “haven’t done a lick of training” or “smoke and eat poorly?”

        I’m sure you know that most slow runners work hard, train properly, and treat their bodies with care and respect. Just like not everyone can be an Olympic Marathoner, no matter how hard they work, every body is not capable of holding a sub-10 minute mile pace.

        Maybe you should think about if your condescension and concern trolling adds to the discussion or just confirms the fears and worries that other commenters have mentioned already.

        Liked by 2 people

  24. Julie Jackson

    Great post- thank you! I was talking to a fast runner once the night before a marathon. When I laughed about how long it was going to take me to finish, he said he had a tremendous amount of respect for the slow marathoners because we’re on our feet for so long. He said he couldn’t imagine being out there that long and didn’t think he could do it. I thought that was a cool thing for him to say.

    Like

  25. Linnea (Lynn) Martin

    Good article! I also didn’t start running until 40’ish….now 65. My time has slowed down, due to asthma & bustitis & just A-G-E….but I’m still out there. I help with Couch-to-5K groups & some say I “can’t” run a 5K….I say, “you are still faster than your couch”. There is no sin in walking, especially if the weather is HOT or COLD! I also volunteer if I’m not running a race (every race needs its volunteers!). Now if Race Directors would realize that there are slower people out there & not pull the course before the last person goes by….ie: they need “sweepers”.

    Like

  26. Tony B

    I am a blind runner, also a running coach, an ultra-marathon runner. I am though, a slow runner. Does running HAVE to mean ‘fast’? I do not believe so, and I refuse to coach anyone to that. Just getting up, getting out and doing it, no matter the distance, the pace, the choice of route. THAT is what matters. This entire article is absolutely accurate.

    Like

  27. Cor

    As a racedirector I love every runner. Fast or even faster. 😉 (I refuse to use the word slow). I await every runner at the finishline, with similar respect and enthusiasm. From the first to the last, I will be there for them. I happily wait 5 hours, every runner has done the effort. And yes, only after the last runner is in we will start packing…. It is a simple form of respect. #mytwocents

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Clarissa Miller

    I agree, I am not a runner, however I do enter races and compete. I average about an 18 minute mile, so I am slow. The others in the club are faster then I am, and I am always pulling up the back. However the ones in the back are doing just as work as the ones in the front. So we need to give each other encouragement and support each other.

    Like

  29. Cindy

    I just started running last year. I’m 52 years old and ran 3 5K’s last year. I was not so happy with myself because 2 of the 5K’s I had to walk a bit. Then when I did run the full 5K at a 12 minutes mile I was so proud of myself. I did it for ME! Training again for this year still going to proud of myself no matter what! Keep running 🏃🏻‍♀️ for you!

    Like

  30. Bobbi

    I so agree! Not a runner myself because I can’t, but I often take photos of races and I always ALWAYS stay till the last runners come through because they have worked harder and longer than the others!

    Like

  31. Emma Graham

    What I would like you ‘slow’ runners to understand, is that those of us who volunteer get their biggest kick out of seeing the ‘slow runners’ push yourselves. More often than not, the top twenty can barely manage a grimace as they pass the marshal. Yet when the ‘majority’ pass by, they thank us, smile, or swear when we promise its the last hill – you know we lie! Trust me, we may get a minor “ooh, they were very quick” tremor when the first person passes by but the best bit is when we see those who work damned hard, and it’s not a gift! I think you are awesome!

    Like

  32. Erik Bohm

    “Just because it takes you longer, doesn’t mean you failed.” I love this quote and I loved reading your article. Thank you for sharing and being an inspiration to other runners. Fast or slow.

    Like

  33. Amy Marie

    I wouldn’t considered myself a slow runner but I am no where near a fast runner either. I guess I am just somewhere in between. To be honest, I am more impressed with the “slow” runners because of the time and determination it takes for them to finish. I just wrote a post myself about how humbling of an experience running can be. I am humbled every time somebody passes me but I keep going. It’s my own journey to take and I applaud everyone who gets up and does it regardless if they are running a 5 minute mile or a 15 minute mile. I’ve got nothing but respect for them all. Everyone knows how to run, but running is no easy feat.

    Like

  34. Leah

    I love the article about slow runner!! I once was a slow runner and never been a runner nor a sports person. I belong to Generation X, come from conservative catholic family. I am a person who couldn’t run when joined my high school Junior Police because I never did run. And I cried when I run for a few minute because I got horrible cramps on my belly. Then, I move here in USA got 4 son, I’m a military wife, and finally PCS last 2015-2017 at Fort Carson and during that time I turn 41 years. Husband deployed again and to keep ourselves busy , we walked and jogged with a stroller and taught myself to run. Then, I signed up and ran a 5K. I am 1 of the slowest runners for any reason I pat myself and whispered it to myself “What a great accomplishment, you did today”, I was ecstatic for at least I got the Guts to Ran even I’m just slow but I Did It!! Hooray to all runners!!! Slow or Fast Runners, it doesn’t makes a difference. Everyone started and ended in same finishing line. That’s all it matters❤️

    Like

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