Slow is a Four Letter Word
I have long been a fan of the pace group concept in a marathon. In fact, I owe part of the credit for my first ever BQ to a guy named Peter who lead the 3:20 pace group at my Sacramento, California International Marathon (CIM) race. (2009 post: "I'm Going to Get That Boston Jacket.")
With several full and half marathons under my belt, I've often thought it would be fun to be a pace group leader myself. Through some running buddies, I learned that Boulder Running Company was looking for pace group leaders for the Colfax Marathon. I was assigned the 2:45 half marathon pace assignment.
The first thought that popped into my mind was "can I run that slow?" My PR in a half marathon is a 1:32 which is roughly a seven minute per mile pace. A 2:45 is a twelve and a half minute pace which is around my airport walking pace--years ago, a travel companion labeled it "Ty's airport pace." I spend a lot of time in airports, so I move pretty quick to either catch a flight or get out of there. In training and in races, my brain is wired to run fast.
Enter the controversy. Getting nervous about the expectations from the runner's I'll be responsible for, I tweeted, that I was worried that I could actually run that slow. Scott from iRunnerBlog (and #runchat) was confused and thought I was running a slow 2:45 full marathon pace--yeah, right! Melissa responded, "I think it's awesome and admirable. My first half was 3:02. I wish I'd had a great pacer to help me! PR: 2:04."
Then came the hashtag, #SMH from another twit peep. I had to look that one up. "Shaking my head." I sensed she didn't think my volunteer effort was noble. Uh-oh. I offended another runner with my term, "slow." I sent a few retorts and apologies, but I kept digging a deeper hole. "worried I can actually run that slow." Seriously??? That SLOW?? Such a negative slap to runners like me." She went on to tell me, "Yeh, if u said that at the beginning of the race to those people struggling to do 12's u would look like a dick & people wld feel like losers."
Wow! That's some serious wrath. First off, I "volunteered" for this duty because I wanted to give back to the sport I love. I'm not getting paid, and I don't expect an honor badge or medal. Secondly, I don't want to disappoint. When I relied on pacers, I had high expectations that they would help me hit my goals. I don't know how many will be in this group, but just as I've always said, before training for any race, my first goal is to actually complete the training. Whether you are Ryan Hall or running your first ever half marathon at a goal of 2:45, you have accomplished a lot by getting to the starting line.
Another thing about running, is that there is always someone faster than you, so fast or slow is a relative term. For me, a 12:30 pace is slow, but that doesn't mean you're not a runner or any less of a person than I am. There are people who are slower than you at 12:30, or don't run at all.
Despite the "asshole" persona I apparently have with some twitterland folks, I will not strut in like some pompous ass who's better than them. If you knew me at all, you'd know that's not how I'm wired. I'm excited for tomorrow and hoping that someone might remember me, like I remember Peter.