It’s Okay To Start Slow : An open letter to beginner runners
“Oh, so you’re a runner? So you’ve done a marathon? How fast can you run? What’s your longest distance? What’s your PR?”
How many times have you encountered these questions from people after you tell them that you run? And how many times did this peer-pressure made you sign up for a race you didn’t have enough time to train for? For most beginner runners, the answer will most likely be “a lot”.
The running community is one that is perhaps one of the largest and most ever-growing fitness community in the country – people from different fields are constantly being drawn to the sport because so many have testified how it changed their lives and how much fun running can be. But because it is already an established community, many beginners find themselves lost and insecure about the technicalities of running and their “achievements” as runners. Novice runners tend to feel pressured to go fast and go far too soon because they see some of their runner friends have already done this race or ran this fast, etc.
Are you running to be a better version of yourself or are you running to post a new PR for others to see?
You see, there is nothing wrong with posting PRs and pictures of medals and races that you have accomplished. You have all the right to be proud because you worked really hard for that medal or PR. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with pushing yourself to the limit. That’s the only way we can be better than the runners we are today.
But it becomes a problem when your only motivation is external validation.
How? Well, for instance, it can be the reason why after doing your first 5 km run this week, you’ll sign up for a half marathon that is two weeks from now. This search for external validation can be also your reason to sign up for a sub 1 hour 10 km run without training for it, thinking that “hey it’s just 10 km, I’m sure I can finish it fast”.
There’s a high chance that you can actually muster enough self-motivation you need to finish these things without proper training, but at what cost? At the cost of having a high chance of injuring yourself causing you to be unable to run for weeks or even months? Or perhaps even feeling burned-out from running because you are perpetually tired and weak from overtraining? Are those PR posts worth it, then?
So this brings us back to the most important question: Why are you running?
I used to be insecure because I can’t run as fast as the more experienced team members of Pinoy Fitness. I used to be frustrated because even after following a training plan, I can’t finish a 21 km in under 2 hours 30 minutes. But when I told experienced runners that I finished a 21km, they didn’t ask the time. No not at all, they just congratulated me and wished me good luck in my preparation for a full marathon. It shocked me that even these experienced runners didn’t care about my time and pace, they were just genuinely proud that I crossed the finish line.
And more importantly, I felt happy and proud after getting that medal. I was happy because I didn’t get any injuries and I got to run at the pace I trained for. I was ecstatic because I saw the energy of my fellow runners and saw that they too are happy just because they get to run. And I was proud of myself because the weeks of training paid off. I was proud because this was a milestone in my full marathon journey. And I had a sense of relief because just after crossing the finish line, I got to tell myself “Wow there’s really nothing wrong with starting slow”.
…just after crossing the finish line, I got to tell myself “Wow there’s really nothing wrong with starting slow”
It’s okay to start slow.
It’s okay to use the run-walk method in your first marathon. You are not racing against time or other runners. You are trying to conquer the beast of a distance and that in itself is already big.
It’s okay to run at your easy pace when you’re recovering from an injury. It’s important to listen to your body and take good care of it, even if it means you’ll have to run minutes slower than your race pace.
It’s okay to feel lost in all the technicalities in running. All runners had to start somewhere, so don’t worry too much, we’ll get there soon enough.
So for all our readers there, remember why you started and remember how good you feel when you’re running. These are the things that matter most and will keep us in love with the running lifestyle for a long time.
Respect the speed. Respect the distance. Love the Journey.
Cheers to all runners!