So You’re The Slowest Runner In The Group…

NYRR Group Training

This morning was the first time that my NYRR training group met. I decided back in November that I wanted to be a faster runner and purchased a set of eight classes on Cyber Monday. You know you’re a runner if the only thing you purchased between Black Friday and Giving Tuesday is a set of running classes for yourself.

I got my butt up at 5 am, put on four layers, and took an Uber to Prospect Park for my class. It was 20 degrees this morning with the city still covered in snow so I questioned how many people would actually show up, and was surprised to learn that approximately 25 people gathered before I got there. Dedication.

I checked in with the guy with the clipboard that had a mini flashlight clamped to it (yup, it was still dark) and learned that I was in Group 3. For those are interested in how the coaches group you, NYRR evaluates your running profile and current best paces and groups you with people of similar athletic capabilities.

Group 3 is the slowest group. I suddenly felt self-conscious and aware that I wasn’t as good. For the last few years, I had worked to build mileage, speed, strength, and even led running groups for my church. I became a runner. Being a runner was now a part of my identity – I even built a blogging brand for myself as a runner!

When I started running nearly a decade ago, I never thought I would be here. I didn’t think I’d want to run marathons, pay good money to run races (which is ironic because running is a free activity), or care about my pace. However, here I am today doing all of those things.

I felt like I had regressed and became a newbie again who was always last. Let’s be honest – it sucks being last.

It sucks to be picked last for dodge ball. It sucks to be the last one to finish the mile during the Presidential Physical Fitness Test (this was me). It sucks to be the last to turn in a project. You feel as though everyone is looking at you, judging you, and waiting (impatiently) for you to finish.

If this feeling has kept you from running, or pursuing anything else in your life, raise your hand.

I questioned whether I would return to the group training run even before we started. Then I flashed back to the time when I first started running. I started running the Spring of 2007. My coworkers at my record label invited me to run with them in Central Park. Back then, I could barely finish one mile outdoors even though I was crushing three miles on the treadmill. It was embarrassing. I hated that my friends wanted to run as a group because I always held them back. If we didn’t run as a group, I was always many steps behind them struggling to keep up.

They didn’t care. They didn’t mind running back to get me because it was an opportunity to do more of what they love. They didn’t mind waiting for me at the finish, because they cheered for me as I came running towards them. Sometimes I insisted they run ahead to spare me of the embarrassment, and so that I could walk in peace. They would not let me give up and walk.

The encouragement and accountability from my friends coupled with my willingness to return each week is what made me a runner. Each week got easier. Each week I got stronger. Each week I became faster.

If you are the slowest runner in your group, do not despair.

You are EXACTLY where you need to be.

Running with those who are faster than you will force you to be better. Always seek to be in the company of those who are better than you. Your body will have no option but to change.

Know that no one is looking at you. No one thinks that you’re slow or out of shape. If you are the slowest runner in your group, know that you are inspiring others with your desire to improve, commitment to make a change, and drive to work for it.

Everyone who is out there running with you has the same goal. They also have room for improvement and will put in the same time and sweat equity.

Lastly, remember why you started running in the first place and remind yourself of all the benefits of running. I personally love the camaraderie that running provides. You experience kindness from complete strangers who support your goals and want you to succeed. It’s the way life should be all the time.

So while I started writing this blog post for you, I will be sure to read this myself for the next eight weeks while I complete my NYRR Group Training Program. I’ll celebrate being the last, with great expectation that I will be better for it.