I've worked with hundreds of beginning runners and runners new to distance running such as training for a first half or full marathon. The number one single-most hindrance or hold-back to success that I see in the runners who struggle is latching on to "I'm so slow" and not letting it go.
Slow is a relative term. What's slow to one runner is fast to another and vice versa. I'm not so sure why so many runners are hung up on speed. I've always looked at it as I want to be the best runner I can be. That may be running faster. That may be running longer. That may be running injury-free.
Thinking speed is a mark of a "real" runner gets so many runners (new and experienced) into trouble. Beginning runners that bolt out on that first 1-min run of a 1-min run/5-min walk interval often are the ones who struggle later in the program or quit. The slower-starting runners are usually more successful with the program. Starting slow and building is much easier on the body and mind, then starting out too fast and having to pull back. On the other end of the spectrum, marathon runners that run all their runs fast even their long run, often end up peaking too soon or getting injured.
Fast is not always good. There's research to back it up. Research shows that runners that mix up their run paces over the course of the week are usually better runners on race day and are less injured. Often runners who always run fast, acclimate to that fast feel. That makes it's hard for them to tell when they're running too hard. This often leads or over-training and often leads to fatigue, lackluster workouts, and often injury.
Tips for the "slower" runner:
- Embrace your slowness. Own it. It's where you're currently at. Doesn't mean you have to stay there. So embrace the moment. You'll enjoy running more.
- Don't worry about other runners. It's your race. Your pace.
- Start where you're at with your running, not where you want to be and you'll get where you want to go. If you start where you want to be, you'll only be frustrated and disappointed.
- Keep in mind that many of those "fast" runners were once "slow" runners. Running is a journey. Yes, there will always be those born as gifted runners. Good for them. Just means you'll have to work a little more to get where you want to go.
- Mix up your runs. Get out of your comfort zone. Have one run a week be a shorter run where you push your pace out of your comfort zone. A good workout for this is a fartlek run. Fartlek is a Swedish term for "speed play." To do a farlek run, run the first and last miles at your normal easy pace. For the middle miles, rotate between running 5 mins easy then 1 min "hard". Not a sprint but harder than your normal pace. It should feel labored. Be sure there is a distinct difference in pace between the hard and easy.
- Join a running group. One of the best ways to increase pace is to run with someone slightly faster than you. (http://runnerdudesfitness.com/runegades)
- Stop saying You're slow. Start saying, "I'm a runner and I'm on a mission."
- Trust. Believe. Conquer!
Let it go! Let it go! No more "slow." Let it go!