Slow is a Four Letter Word

I got myself in trouble again this week.  I've always had a sense of humor that teeters between sarcasm and "foot in mouth disease.  Combine that with the limitation of 140 characters on twitter and I'm often misunderstood in twitterland.

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.") 

If you haven't used a pace group leader before, it's fairly straightforward, someone who's comfortable running a certain pace per mile will lead a group over the entire race (normally carrying a sign with the posted finish goal time.)  The one's I have used all used "even splits" over the course.  I fell short in Chicago of qualifying for Boston, but Peter got me there in Sacramento.

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.


  1. There are always those who will jump down another person's throat when they think that they are being disparaged(sp?) in some way. I'm somewhat new to running and looking at running my first Half this summer. I hope to find a good pace leader to help get me through at my (somewhat slow) 11 minute mile. All I can say to you is: Thanks! Thanks for giving back to running and helping those of us who wish to make our goals. Good Luck!

  2. I appreciated you being out there today. I have no doubt that had I been running alone I would have given up somewhere around mile 11 and walked. Thank you.

  3. As soon as I started reading this post I knew when you said "slow" that it wasn't meant negatively. I've slowly come to learn that slow & fast in the running world is a relative term. To me, anybody that runs faster than me is SUPER fast. I don't consider myself a fast runner (I run an avg of a 10 min pace unless it's SUPER long distance {full mary}), but I know that some people look at me as SUPER fast too. I think it's great that you are confident enough to be a pacer for a run.


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