Yesterday, I ran my long run along Tama River in preparation for a half-marathon this coming Saturday. In the middle of the run, I heard the approach of a large mass of running steps behind me. Without thinking, I started to step aside to let the runners pass. That involuntary reaction was honed from years of getting out of the way of fast runners.
I am not a fast runner. More often than not, I do not run in the middle of the road, especially in races, so that other runners do not have to waste valuable seconds going around or, if the road is narrow, following me. I have also met fast runners who talk about slow runners with contempt and derision. Hence, I infrequently talk about my race times, and emphasize the fact that I finished and how much I enjoy running. And, I instinctively move aside.
But yesterday, there was nowhere else to move except to the water-soaked and muddy patches of the river bank. As the runners thundered past me, I noticed that they were focused on running and looking ahead or happily chatting with each other. No one sneered at me, loudly complained about me getting in their way, tried to run me down, or gave me evil looks. In fact, I did not notice anyone even looking at me.
None of the runners cared about me being slow. They had better things to worry about than my pace, things like their own paces, running forms, training plans, or the pints of cold beer waiting for them. Sure, I have met runners who have whined about me being such a slowpoke but once they have run past me, I don’t think they’ll recognize or even remember me if I bump into them the next day. Will they miss their personal bests because they have to run around me? I doubt that. Should I be bothered about what other runners think about how I run? Why should I?
Does it matter if I’m slow? That’s the real question, isn’t it? And my answer is, “NO.” It doesn’t matter at all. Running is running, no matter the pace. Most runners are happy to just be out there and run, and are mostly supportive of other runners. Runners who love to run do not look down on others. So what if there are those who grumble about me the slowpoke? Their elitist opinions do not, and should not, matter.
What matters is that I am doing what I love to do. I run because I love it, and I run for me.