Yes, let’s. Better talking about it than actually doing anything about perhaps increasing my own! Pace is a thorny issue with running isn’t it. It’s all soo relative. I was talking to someone the other day who told me she’d got home after a 5km and realised she’d done it in 32 minutes and was ecstatic and then her husband went and came back all grumpy because it had taken him just over 30 minutes and he said it was his slowest ever… Hm, Pace.
So, rewind a little bit. I should explain what triggered this post. I was looking at information about the sports facilities offered at the university I now work at. I came across information about the running club and noted with interest that the focus was on beginners and intermediate runners. I liked that. I’d never go of course- it’s a running club, not something for me – it’s for, like, proper runners…
Anyway, I was pleased that the institution I am now affiliated with included beginner runners. And then I read on. If you’re a beginner, the running club, it appears, runs roughly 3 miles at roughly an 11-12 minutes per mile pace. A whole wave of thoughts hit me all at once.
- 11-12 minutes per mile is not beginner pace
- I’m not a beginner
- I’m slower than that most of the time
- I don’t think I’m a beginner
- So moving from beginner status is just about getting faster?
- Oh – I’ll be a beginner forever
- What would happen if I went?
I’ve not been running that long, there’s lots I don’t know about running but I’m not a beginner. At some point since Dopey my perception of me as a runner shifted. I’m still not really a runner, never will be BUT I’m not a beginner. I don’t see myself as a runner at all but I also don’t see myself as a beginner. It’s odd. But according to that pace guidance I’m not even at beginner level. I might be able to hold that pace for 3 miles on a good day but I couldn’t be sure. I have done a mile in under 10 minutes – once.
Anyway, it made me think about pace and running and what that all means. And it’s not so much the groups that are problematic – having an 11-12 minute mile groups is great- lots of place don’t have that and the slowest is 10 minutes. I think the problem is the labels given to the groups. You see I might never get to intermediate – which would be 10 minutes per mile sustained over 5-6 miles. I might however get to be a very experienced runner who knows what works for her and what doesn’t, who can put together a sensible training plan to achieve her goals, who can work on increasing her pace, her distance and her pace over specified distances. In fact I think I am making good progress towards that.
So actually the problem is labelling running groups as beginner, intermediate etc. You could never have really run but find out that actually you are naturally pretty speedy or you could have been running for years and years but never really get much faster – either because you are happy at your pace or because you’re focussed on something else or because it is just not going to happen. Every now and again I get frustrated that the chances of me getting much faster are slim to none but mostly that’s ok. I know I can get a little faster if I train and work on it but it won’t be by much. Mostly that’s ok. Pace is relative. What is fast for me is painfully slow for someone else.
So, rant over. Run at whatever pace you want, you can and let’s outrun those labels that always seem to come with a hint of judgement. As for the running club, I was never planning on going anyway…