I’m a member of several local running social media groups where people often post upcoming running adventures looking for others to join in. Pace is almost always mentioned in the post or in the comments, typically with one or two respondents adding that they’d love to join, but they’re too slow. Most often these comments come from women.
I get that it can be fun to run with someone who is a similar pace. You don’t have to wait for slower people or struggle keeping up with faster ones. If you’re on an easy run, you can talk. If you are running a workout or climbing a tough trail, a similarly-paced partner can keep you accountable.
But when someone says “I’m too slow,” it somehow feels like “I’m not good enough.”
Unless you make your living from running fast, pace matters to no one except yourself. There will always be people slower than me and there will always be people faster than me. Don’t get me wrong, my ego loves it when people tell me I’m fast. But I’m a solid mid-packer at my Tuesday track practice and barely on the same planet as the pros. I want to become faster, no question about it, but my ability to get there is only important to me. My friends and family don’t care if I can run a sub-20 (or 19?) 5K. They are proud of me when I reach my goals, but ultimately my speed matters very little to anyone else.
So why the guilt and sheepishness around pace, especially from women? Perhaps it stems from a culture where we are taught to downplay our strengths and apologize for just about anything that could be construed as weakness. I think that apologizing for our pace is similar to being afraid to show your runner’s belly when it’s hot out: we don’t want others to think we’re not good enough.
So here’s the real truth. We are all runners. Speed is relative. Marathons are hard for everyone. Racing doesn’t get easier; you just get better at it. By all means, organize your group runs by pace if you prefer, but please don’t apologize for it.