5 Lessons Learned From Slowing My Running Pace

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It was sur­pris­ing and dis­ap­point­ing to real­ize that, at just 31 years old, life was telling me—quite clearly—that run­ning as I’ve always run wasn’t going to work any­more. My body had changed after 16 years of run­ning and two babies, and I couldn’t change that—I could only work with it. After try­ing every­thing I could think of, I was final­ly des­per­ate enough to do what I’d been fight­ing the hardest—I slowed down. It’s been more than a year now since The Great Slow Down, and what I’ve learned has down­right shocked me. It seems all the stig­ma around ‘being slow’ is wrong.

Slow­er = stronger?
So much of run­ning focus­es on run­ning fast—covering a spe­cif­ic dis­tance in as lit­tle time as you can. Run­ners train to PR and improve their times for their cho­sen distance(s). With this in mind, of course ‘run­ning slow­er’ seems like a neg­a­tive. How can you PR when you’ve allowed your­self to slow down? How­ev­er, slow­er can also mean stronger and longer. Upon slow­ing my long run pace by 1–2 min­utes per mile, I found that I could increase that long run in larg­er chunks each week and – get this – feel the same or bet­ter than I used to when I was try­ing to push the pace the whole time.

Learn your body lan­guage
There’s a lot of talk in our cul­ture about ‘lis­ten­ing to your body’s queues’—usually per­tain­ing to eat­ing, but it is help­ful to rec­og­nize and under­stand what your body is say­ing in any sit­u­a­tion. Slow­ing down the pace allows not only the extra time, but a more relaxed mind (because you aren’t as tired and stressed over the pace), in order to focus on your body’s queues and learn what’s nor­mal, what’s not, and what it is ask­ing for.

More time
Wait—doesn’t run­ning slow­er take longer? Sure, of course it does, but the over­all addi­tion­al time on the clock usu­al­ly isn’t sig­nif­i­cant (if you slow your pace an entire minute per mile, that’s still only 10 more min­utes on a 10-mile run), while you sud­den­ly have the extra time to do what you enjoy doing while running—think, prob­lem-solve, enjoy the breeze, scope out the scenery, or just enjoy some alone-time. It’s amaz­ing what a slight change in per­spec­tive does, isn’t it?

Injury schmingery!
In gen­er­al, slow­ing down your pace is eas­i­er on your body. A gen­tler stride and increased aware­ness and con­nec­tion with your body will nat­u­ral­ly result in few­er injuries. You are more like­ly to hear—and lis­ten to—your body soon­er when it says some­thing hurts or feels out of place. Giv­ing your body a break from con­stant push­ing may sur­prise you in how quick­ly it responds and how good you can feel while run­ning.

No shame nec­es­sary
Slow­ing one’s pace does not mean low­er­ing the bar of expec­ta­tions. When your body is telling you it’s time to slow down the pace, for one rea­son or anoth­er, you are wise to lis­ten. How­ev­er, you can still nego­ti­ate goals. I slowed down, but then I went longer. My body agreed to this, and now we’re both a lot hap­pi­er.