“I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.” — Bart Yasso
Running is one of those sports where the only loser is the one who quits. Slow runners often have to deal with the frustration thrown at them by faster runners.
They, however, fail to recognize the fact that they’ve already won by finishing the race even as a “slow runner”.
Being slow runners is nothing to be ashamed of. You may remain a slow runner for your whole life and still hold that title with pride.
On the other hand, if you aim to improve your speed, we’ll show the causes you should avoid, the actions you should take, and the mentality you should be having.
Reasons For Slow Running
Being a slow runner stems from various reasons. It’s important to recognize the problem before thinking of a solution. That’s exactly what we will help you do.
1. Carrying Extra Weight
The extra weight is a reason that slips by the minds of most runners. This extra weight could be internal (a heavy body) or external (unnecessary extra items).
The heavier you are, the more energy you’ll use to fight off the pulling gravity. On a marathon, this could have a tremendous effect as you progress.
A few studies estimated that every five extra pounds you carry will reduce your performance by approximately 5%.
This could drastically affect your heart rate and speed for each mile you run.
2. Using the Wrong Shoes
You’d be surprised how choosing the wrong or low-quality shoes can affect your run. A pair of badly-cushioned shoes will make you feel more ground impact with every step.
This doesn’t only consume more of your energy, it could also harm your muscles, knees, and tendons.
Jens Jakob Andersen, the founder of RunRepeat.com, is among the fastest 0.2% runners based on 35 million race results.
Andersen was such a firm believer in the importance of running shoes that he opened a store dedicated just to them.
The right running shoe can reduce the impact on your ankle, the cramps of your feet, and even help you achieve a better running form.
Don’t be afraid to invest in proper running shoes.
They may initially seem a bit more expensive than your average shoes, but they’ll do both your body and your wallet a favor in the long run.
3. Using the Wrong Pacing Strategy
Easy runs are different from races, and races are different from marathons.
You may be able to run a mile in 7 minutes, but you may not be able to maintain that speed or pace for a whole marathon.
It’s hard to get a grasp at the ideal pacing strategy for various race distances, but the more you run, the more you get to get a hold of your ideal pace.
Being a slow runner who can finish the whole race is much better than being a fast runner who gets tired halfway through.
Completing the run should have a higher priority than improving pace.
Try this Run-Walk-Run strategy to have an understanding of how to pace yourself through a marathon.
4. Skipping Training
Remember the ideal pace that we just talked about? Maintaining that ideal pace is the goal of your race, but “improving” that pace is the goal of your training.
Talent may be natural but skill is only developed by hours of honing your craft. If you don’t workout, it won’t work out.
Formulating and sticking to a training plan is the most important aspect of improving your speed and endurance.
It may be worth getting a running coach to help you tailor the ideal workout for you.
How to Stop Being a Slow Runner
Now that we understand what could hinder your running performance and slow you down, it’s time to talk about solutions.
Whatever workout you decide to follow, you should consistently do it until the end. No matter how ideal your plan is, it’s completely useless if you don’t apply it.
You should understand that improving your running speed takes time and the training won’t get any easier.
If anything, it will get harder over time and will require even more consistency.
If you want to become a competitive runner, you’ll need to be even more persistent.
We’re not trying to discourage you, we just want you to understand that frustration is inevitable but also normal.
Everyone gets frustrated but not everyone maintains consistency.
2. Improve Your Baseline Speed
Your baseline speed is your average speed every mile. It’s different from how fast you can run a single mile.
For example, you may be able to run a mile in six minutes, but you won’t be able to maintain that same pace for five more miles.
To know your baseline speed, go for a five-mile run and calculate your time. After that, divide that time by five. The result will be your baseline speed.
Your following two or three five-mile runs should maintain that same baseline speed for your body to get into the rhythm.
You may start to take up your speed a bit further in the following runs to improve your baseline speed.
3. Variety of Training
Improving your pace isn’t only limited to running exercises.
Those tempo runs and strides are fantastic ways to make you run faster for longer distances, but your body has more muscles than the ones used in running.
Compliment your workout by adding various other fitness methods like swimming and jumping ropes.
Running may tone most of your body muscles at the same time but specialized training on some muscles can improve your fitness even more.
4. Lose Unnecessary Weight
The muscle mass required for different running competitions will vary.
For example, short distance runners like Usain Bolt have a considerable muscle mass to help them complete those short sprints as fast as possible.
If you compare the muscle mass of Usain Bolt to marathon runners like Kenenisa Bekele, you’ll notice how less muscle weight a marathoner has.
For Bolt, that muscle mass is needed for speed so the extra weight to him is necessary.
For Bekele, the extra muscle mass would reduce his pace in the long run, which is why his body doesn’t have as much muscle mass as Bolt.
However, one thing is for sure, both of them have little fat in their bodies.
This should be your main goal, tone your body to suit the running style you prefer without having to bear the weight of extra fat.
Additionally, you should refrain from carrying any unnecessary items during a marathon or half marathon.
We’ve seen people carrying large bottles of water which not only adds weight but messes up their running form.
Water will almost always be available throughout most of the marathon course. Use that supplied water to avoid carrying any unnecessary weight that could slow you down.
5. Improve Your Diet
Having a good diet is the main contributor to having little body weight.
You may workout enough to burn all the calories you consume but the fact remains that fat-rich foods will make it harder for your body to run.
Your diet should be healthy in general and the meal before the race day in specific should be fat-free.
6. Improve Your Breathing
You could place two runners who have the same potential side by side and ask them to do a five-mile race.
The winner of the race will be the one who manages to maintain their breath.
Most beginners fall into the pit of hyperventilating and taking quick, shallow breaths.
Not only will it exhaust your chest muscles, but it will also reduce the amount of oxygen going to your legs which will slow you down.
Practice deep stable breaths regularly even if you’re not actively running. Learning to control your breathing will improve your running pace tenfold.
7. Drink Enough Water
Staying hydrated goes without saying so we won’t go much into details. We’ll just tell you how to stay hydrated during a marathon.
Ideally, you should have around 20 ounces (2.5 cups) of water 45 minutes before you run.
Once the running starts, you need 4 ounces (0.5 cups) of water every 15 minutes.
This should be enough to keep your blood circulation maintained until you reach the finish line.
How to Get a Better Mindset as a Slow Runner
As you continue your running journey, you need to have the right mindset so you can keep going.
Many reasons will hinder your progress no matter how much you try. It’s up to you to minimize the impact of these reasons.
1. It’s a Matter of Perspective
Unless you’re an elite athlete, you’re often a slow runner to someone else.
That’s natural and shouldn’t be bothersome to you even though it’s one of the main reasons why runners get discouraged.
If you compare your early results to someone who spent years honing their running skills, then you’re going to fail.
You won’t have the pace or the speed of an elite runner from the start and as you progress, someone will always be better than you. Being a slow runner is a matter of perspective.
If you run a mile in 12 minutes, you’re better than those who do it in 14.
When you improve your 12 minutes to 10, then you’re better than you were but still a slow runner to those who run a mile in 8 minutes. The cycle goes on.
If you think about it, you’re always too slow to someone and too fast to someone else. You shouldn’t look at yourself and decide that you’re a slow runner.
You should look at yourself as someone who’s training to be a faster runner.
Don’t be afraid of being a slow runner, be afraid of not improving yourself.
2. Slow Runners Are Still Doing Their Best
Your pace may be slow when you run but you’re still giving it your all. That’s something to be proud of.
No matter how many times you find yourself in the back of the pack, what matters most is that you reach the finish line.
Whether it’s a casual run, a marathon, or a half marathon, your achievement should be reaching that finish line.
It’s not unusual to see people in a marathon cheering for that slow runner in the back.
Those backmarkers don’t care about their finishing time and their main purpose is to complete the marathon.
The reason why people cheer for those slow runners is because they know how much effort these runners put on.
The amount of energy a slow runner exerts to reach the finish line is much more than that of a recreational runner. That is something everyone should respect.
Don’t be afraid to have a slower pace or even finish the marathon as a jogger. The point is to keep going.
3. Being the Last Is No Shame
We’ve had countless people quitting a marathon in fear of being the last runner to finish. The so-called “shame” of being the runner with the worst pace can hinder your progress tremendously.
There will always be a runner who’s the last to finish and that doesn’t mean they’re the worst. It only means that you just didn’t have it that day.
You might have been having a bad day or your form may have been off. It could be anything.
Even if you consistently finish last or near last, you’re still better than countless other people who don’t run at all.
When you run, you improve your health, your heart rate, and your overall health.
If you’re not an elite runner whose aim is always to finish near the top, you should find no shame in finishing anywhere else along the line.
At the end of the day, you’re still a winner.
It’s great to become the best runner out there but what’s even greater…is to become the best runner you can be.
Running is a sport that rewards you every single time you do it.
If you focus too much on the wrong aspects like having a slow pace and not finishing first, then you’re missing the bigger part of the picture.
You’ve trained your body, you’ve joined that race, and you’ve finished it. You’ve already won, everything else in between is just for you to enjoy.
Don’t lose courage. Just run!