Last week I clocked the highest mileage I have in a long, long time: 47 miles! This plan has seriously pushed me outside my comfort zone, which I’ve been loving. I never thought I could run over 40 miles a week and feel good, and just a few years ago, I NEVER would have thought my easy pace would be around 8:00 minute miles. I’ve had conversations with a few people lately who make comments like, “Oh I’m not a real runner.” or “Oh, I’m not fast.” Comments like these make me so sad because (1) if you run, you’re a runner! and (2) it’s not only about speed.
I go through phases where I love working on speed and phases where I like increasing my mileage a lot. (And phases where I barely want to run!) During all the different phases of training, I still think of myself as a runner. And there are so many other things that matter besides speed: injury rate, flexibility, strength, endurance, and simple enjoyment.
And speed. Oh speed. I firmly believe that anyone can run faster if they put in the work and believe in themselves. A few years ago, I never, ever thought I would call an 8 minute pace easy. Seriously guys, never. And the past few years I’ve been blown away by how my body has responded to the increased training load and hard work I’ve put it through. It definitely takes time and discomfort, but if getting faster is important to you, you can do it, I promise. (Here are my tips for how to increase your running speed.)
Another note about speed: it is alllll relative so it’s better to focus on comparing your times to your personal bests and focusing on the improvements you are making. Because unless you’re competing in the Olympics, there is always going to be someone faster than you. 🙂 I love running local races because they are small and I typically can place pretty high in the race, which is fun and totally boosts my ego. Then, when I travel to a larger race, like the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, I’m blown away by the speed of the people at larger races. It inspires me to see such fast runners, knowing the natural talent but also the hard work that goes into top performances. And I’m equally impressed by the people who aren’t at the front, who also put in time and miles to finish the race strong.
So stop disqualifying your title as a runner or adding a footnote to your conversations about running. If you run, you’re a runner. If you want to be faster, you can. And remember the vast majority of miles put in over the course of a runner’s life don’t happen in a race; they happen during the daily training runs without any finish line or rankings.