This 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.
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