Celebrating Slow – Inspiration From The Back Of The Pack

celebrating-slowThis is the first post in a series celebrating slow athletes.  It all started with this e-mail (which I’m sharing with permission)

I know you talk about hating running, and mad respect for doing it anyway to reach a goal that you have. I love to run which might make this seem weird – you run, and I don’t.

I stopped running because no matter what I did I was never fast.  I joined a running club and it just sucked – I would always be last, and on longer runs sometimes everyone would have gone home before I even finished.  Most people were nice, but some members suggested that I should just find a sport I was better at. I stopped running.

Reading your blog reminded me is that “faster” doesn’t mean “better” for me.  I let other people tell me what achievement should look like.  That was a mistake. I ran a 5k last weekend (slowly!), I’m signed up for a 10k next month, and a half marathon (with no time limit!) 6 months from now.  I’ll be doing it slow, but I’ll be doing it. Thanks for your blog, it’s so nice to read about another slow athlete.

Good luck in the Ironman, we’re all rooting for you!


This is not the only person who has told me about an experience like this. Most of the stories that get told in books and movies are about people who are fast – they either start out fast, or they get fast, but before you know it they are winning events and setting records.  That’s fine for them, but the truth is, most of us will never be those people.

Many of us will never be fast by any definition. I’m slow AF and I wouldn’t care at all except the goal that I’ve chosen includes a time limit.  Still even though I work on speed, I know that I’ll probably cross the finish line of my IRONMAN without much time to spare and with the slowest marathon time of any of the thousands of athletes in the event. I’m good with that.

There is nothing wrong with fast, but we can also celebrate slow – slow in any sport, slow at any distance.  Slow athletes have some amazing stories – there’s a lot of inspiration to be found at the back of the pack.  Slow athletes deserve to have places to tell our stories, and to have (and be!) role models. So I’m starting this Celebrating Slow Series as a place to do just that.

In the coming weeks you’ll get to read stories from long and short distance runners and walkers, as well as swimmers and cyclists. If you have a story that celebrates slow (at any sport, at any distance) that you would like featured here, please  e-mail it to me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org.

Heather’s Story: Ultra-Slow Ultramarathoner

Calling all slow-positive sloths, turtles, and snails; I hope these anecdotes and information are of some interest and entertainment to you.

I’m a used to be a runner, now I jog some and mostly walk. Still doing my favorite distances, I’m an ultra-slow ultramarathoner.  An ultramarathon is any race longer than a standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

The type of ultras I enjoy most are fixed time events. In this type of event, there is a fixed amount of time on the clock in which entrants see how much distance they can cover, usually on a circuit course. These can vary from 6, 12, 24 hours to multiday events. My *BIG* personal goals are to run/walk at least 50 races of marathon distance or longer, and to do at least one more 100+ miler, before I turn 60 years old. These are major goals, but still doable ones. Currently, at age 56, I’ve completed 15 marathons and 27 ultramarathons.

I’ve always been a middle to back of the pack finisher even at shorter distances or in times past when I could manage a somewhat quicker pace.  Post menopause, I’ve gotten slower and have come to terms with such. At first, I did have a “faster is better” more competitive and defeatist attitude. I avoided events and just felt bad about it all; envying those participating. Eventually realized I didn’t have to stop, I just had to adjust. Once I accepted being slow as being okay, doing races and events became fun again.

Doing long fixed time events also gives me the option to still participate, by the rules, and to still legitimately finish ultra-distances that I wouldn’t necessarily make in fixed distance races with stricter shorter cut off times. A mile is still a mile, no matter how long it takes to cover the distance. And these days I’m only competing against and testing my own limits.

Here are some of my stories and accomplishments as a slow athlete.  I’m just sharing stories, not trying to brag too much, but these are some of the events I’m most proud of, and they do show what kind of fun a persistent plodder can have:

50 mile Georgia Jewel Trail Run. This was a “timed” event, but with a 30 hour cut off to allow for 100 mile entrants. I was one of the last three 50 mile runners to finish, with a time of 20:02:00.  The course wasn’t overly technical, but it was the hardest trail race I’d ever done.  I was quite glad that I had company on the second half of the out and back course, buddied up with another older slower runner. I really think I would have freaked out on the dark trails all by myself!. As we got further along, and talked more and more, my friend and I were tired and loopy and laughing at everything; that made a tough race a good experience.

12 Hour Delano Park Run: This is my hometown favorite race in Decatur, AL. I love the feeling of community here. It is a fixed time event run on a one mile loop around a local park. I’ve participated here for 8 out of the 10 years the race has been held, covering distances between 26 and 56 miles.  I also happen to hold, and have held for the last 5 years, the 2nd place spot for female with the most overall accumulative miles in the race history–slow but steady over the years pays off.

My first multiday race was in 2013 at an event called Three Days at the Fair; I entered the 48 hour division and I completed 107 miles during that time. To date, this is my only 100+ miler, but I’m hoping it won’t be my last. I am very proud of this personal distance record.

My most recent event, last September, was another multiday, called A Race For The Ages. Participants were given one hour on the clock for each year of their age. This year, I had 56 hours and managed to walk (did very little running) 73 miles. I did take frequent breaks and slept some overnight, but I always got back up and continued walking! Interestingly, more than half the field was older than my age, and there were a high percentage of entrants who covered 100 miles or more; it was great to be a part of this and cheer everyone else along, as they encouraged and supported my efforts as well.

Heather W


Do you have a story to tell about being slow (at any sport?)  I’d love to hear about it and help other people here about it too, so please e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org

About Ragen Chastain

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be Iron-distance triathlete, Activist, Fat Person.
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5 Responses to Celebrating Slow – Inspiration From The Back Of The Pack

  1. Denny says:

    I’ve been a triathlete for quite a while–and in keeping with the theme, not only am I a triathlete, I’m probably the slowest triathlete in history. And in 10 years of doing the sport, I’ve only actually crossed the finish line twice. But I dare ANYONE to say I’m not a triathlete.

    My story of how I got to be a triathlete is interesting (well to me at least). I’d started Tae Kwon Do when I was very young. I was fortunate enough to grow up in Riverside, CA which was one of the communities that saw a big influx of Korean refugees after the Korean war. Our neighbor was an Air Force Colonel who through the sheer grace of God almighty and his own generosity allowed a full Korean family (the Maengs, complete with grandparents) to occupy the bottom half of his house. To make a living the Mr Maeng taught Tae Kwon Do classes out of Colonel Randall’s garage. It is safe to say I was one of the first American Tae Kwon Do students in the state of California in the mid 50s.

    I continued practicing for my entire life and was an instructor at many different Dojangs across Southern California. In the early 2000s I had an encounter with a Dojang owner that was highly insulting.Tae Kwon Do is generally a very high flying, high kicking sport. Even though I was one of his most popular instructors, this particular Dojang owner (who I won’t grace by mentioning his name) pulled me aside in the parking lot and said “Reichel, you are too fat. You can’t even jump!” If you don’t lose weight I have to pull you from my instructor list.”

    I was panicked because I loved teaching so much that I tried to do anything and everything I could to lose weight. Of course absolutely nothing worked, and not only did nothing work, the more I DIE-eted I steadily gained more and more weight. At the time my daughter fell in love with and married the love her life, who to this day is an avid triathlete. I would hear my daughter’s wife talk about how she would burn umpteen-milion calories in her daily workouts and that she couldn’t keep weight on if she tried. Of course the weight loss light bulb popped in my head too and figured Ah-ha it must be triathlon is the missing secret to losing weight! Well I was fired from the Dojang anyways but I was certain that no one would hire me again unless I lost weight!

    So I jumped all in, next thing I know I had a nice road bike, tons of spandex, swim-goggles, a pool membership, swim lessons, you name it, I had it. I worked out for a year and like cymbals crashing, didn’t lose one ounce of weight (in fact, as predictable as the sun coming up, I’d actually gained a few pounds). To my amazement however, I was not upset, I did not feel like a failure because I’d found an amazing and supportive community! It didn’t matter if I was dead last, the person who would lap me (twice on many occasions) would yell words of support. I would finish the race (wherever my finish may be when the race time ran out or I gave in to exhaustion or boredom) to the cheers of my family and whoever may have been around at the time. It was heaven. In fact the only time I ever encountered fat shaming was from the members of the large bodied centered Tri-club that I helped found and was ultimately kicked out of (a whole other story).

    I never lost a single pound in thousands of hours of training, I never got a single minute per mile faster but I gained so much confidence that when a new Dojang opened up three years ago in Riverside I walked right and told the owner how long I’d been practicing (almost 55 years at that point!) he asked me for a try out on the spot. No, I still can’t jump, no I can’t do high spinning kicks, but I am the best youth Tae Kwon Do instructor in the entire region. My kids love me and I love them. I have the highest number of Little Dragon graduates of any of the instructors and several of my students have gone on to compete at state and national tournaments.

    If I had been concerned about being slow or being last or not skinny enough or whatever, I probably would have quit triathlon. And instead of allowing the cheers of my family to build my confidence back up, the words of the original Dojang owner would have rattled around my brain forever and I probably never would have walked into the new Dojang and never would have met any of my wonderful students!

    Being slow is just as good as being fast.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So wonderful to read this. I hike in the White Mountains of NH and have a great time. My friend and I go at the speed we call “plod”. We both hike at the same speed and have had an elderly person with foot numbness and a person recently treated for cancer pass us by (they were in our group and warned us that they might slow us down), and we just laugh, because we plod along, letting people pass us, and completing our hike at our perfect for us speed. Faster for us isn’t more enjoyable. And enjoyment is what our hikes are about. Enjoyment and moving our bodies in a joyful way. Yes to slow!


  3. lsstrout says:

    There really should be more stories about being slow. It’s either the superstars, or the disabled who are used as ‘inspiration’. Nothing about people who are just enjoying themselves.


  4. Holly says:

    I really enjoyed reading this!


  5. Angela says:

    These stories are fantastic! Thank you for giving them a platform, and for sharing your own!


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