Not Built for Speed – The Guilty Truth

There’s so much about speed that I like.  I like fast cars.  I really like driving fast in a car.  The adrenaline rush of speed is a fabulous feeling.  Motorbikes are even better.  Instead of rolling around in a box your flying along the road enjoying the g-force rather than being subjected to it. 

Then there’s running downhill at speed.  The thought of running downhill at speed makes me feel physically sick!! My imagination reeling off lists of horrifying injuries IF you miss a step or trip.  Horrifying images conjured by my imagination.  Yet I have not yet fallen forward going downhill.  Not once!! I’ve slid onto my bum, I’ve lost my footing and slid down as though I was wearing skis.  In fact, I’ve fallen more going uphill rather than downhill.  So how come my imagination is controlling my speed going downhill? 

Here’s where I get you to think a little about how fast you run. 

Think about all the reasons/excuses/plausible explanations for not being able to run fast. 

Does it feel the same as those terrifying thoughts about falling downhill at speed? 

I have thought about this a lot over the years.  Most often when I’m out on the trails, adventuring/exploring and generally trying very hard not to get lost! 

A couple weekends ago I helped to check/walk the long route for From Here to There for Beds Bucks and Northants LDWA group.  27 miles, mostly alone, not following a trail left by anyone to help me and no help reading instructions.  It was really weird.  A bizarre thing happened.  I was meeting my better half and son at a car park on Pitsford reservoir and I managed to keep moving far longer than I felt comfortable around the reservoir.  I took my time along the route to make sure the instructions were clear for anyone else to follow but there were sections where I enjoyed the fact that I felt much stronger than I have been over the last couple years. 

What has that got to do with speed?  I’m getting there……….

Last weekend I thoroughly enjoyed Herts Hobble – a very well organised event just outside of Hertford with some very well stocked checkpoints.  The route was fantastically easy to follow, if a bit mystifying in places!! The weather was a bit warm, the views were beautiful.  I met a few friendly faces and had a little chat along the first few miles of the event.  The friendly faces and chat distracted me from my overall plan of taking it easy.  Somehow, in the heat, I was running a pretty decent pace whilst also reading and following instructions.  Something was very different about this run.  I felt a bit hot but overall I felt good.  This time I tried not to stop whilst reading instructions.  This time I tried not to stop running.  This time I ran my fastest self-navigating LDWA event by at least an hour!!

Why should I feel amazed by this? 

See, I’m getting there.  But is this about strength or speed? 

Have I accepted the fact that I will never run fast.  Similar to running downhill fast, have I accepted that there’s a limit to my ability.  Yet when I perform really well because I’ve managed to train sensibly there’s this shock about how well I’ve performed.  Why?  I’ve trained sensibly so there shouldn’t be any surprise! 

Here’s the guilty truth – I’ve accepted that I WILL be slow.  Through all the training I’ve accepted my injuries are because I wasn’t built for speed.  Through all the events I’ve run I’ve accepted that I WILL be slow.  I’m not designed or built for speed. 

 Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to be a fast runner.  The events I would be able to run if I was faster.  The people I could chat to and keep up with if I was a faster runner.  It all seems so far away, like getting a hug from your favourite celebrity!!

Yes, the idea of running fast really does feel like getting close to my favourite celebrity.  The idea of it is really good, the concept isn’t too far fetched yet I know this would NEVER happen.  It’s a pipe dream.  Obviously. 

Yet the moment I stopped fighting with myself to be faster and concentrated on getting stronger, the moment I stopped concentrating on speed – that’s when I got faster. 

There are a few things that are good about not being a fast runner.  My club offers a huge amount of support for the slower runners.  We’re not made to feel slow, they’re called “social” runs where we can run and chat about our day/week/month/year!! Socials runs are the best kind of therapy.  Talking whilst running is pretty difficult.  Strange thing is the more you talk whilst running, the better you feel and you become a little bit fitter without feeling like you’re doing extra work.  Slower runners enjoy a more social run and I really like that type of running. 

Another guilty truth – I enjoy running slow and being social more than I want to run fast! 

For all you slow runners out there.  Keep running if you enjoy it.  Keep being social and enjoying the exercise.  When you decide that you want to run a little faster your body will eventually get the message and it will surprise you. 


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