An Open Letter to Runners Who Think They’re “Too Slow”

You might have noticed that a favorite habit of your fellow runners is to take a quick shot of their watches post-workout. Their results show up in your feed in all their glory: Time spent running and, of course, pace. A morning scroll through so many Garmin faces could encourage you to hit the track—or possibly, discourage you from getting #upandout. Because, of course, your speed might not exactly match theirs.

So then you start to overthink your runs. Maybe everyone is looking at you and clocking your speed. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable showing off your pace. Is there a way to Photoshop your mile time out of your picture? But there’s no reason to worry about whether you’re notching Olympian-level splits, and I’m going to tell you why:

You own the road.

Runners, no one’s watching (really). Everyone else who is running is trying to hit their individual paces, and if they’re walking, well, they’re probably thinking about what they’re making for dinner or why that guy or girl didn’t text them back or how late they’re going to be to their morning meeting. Let me repeat: No. One. Is. Watching.

You can create a community.

You are not too slow to run side-by-side with your friends in a blanket of fog or bone-pricking cold or crushing humidity and laugh about what show you streamed last night or get serious and deep-dive into your hopes for the future. You are not too slow to appreciate your surroundings and tick off the street lamps you pass or press repeat on your favorite running song. You are not too slow to enjoy the still silence of the early mornings, before the sun is up, before the rest of the world is up. You are not too slow to spot another solo runner and say “Good morning!” or “Nice neon!” and barely make out each other’s smiles in the dark. You are not too slow to watch the sun rise.

You’ll still feel strong.

You are not too slow to stare in wonder at the power of your quads or fall in love with the sound of your feet striking the cement. Or the dirt. Or even, yes, the treadmill. Watch in amazement as the miles become easier and you begin to look forward to your alarm clock going off at 5:45 a.m. (Okay, even if that doesn’t happen—the runs do still get easier.)

You’re all wearing the same uniform.

You are not too slow to own more running clothes than actual clothes. You are not too slow to lose feeling in your fingers from the cold or to sweat through your singlet and know how quickly you will return to “normal.”

You experience the same highs as everyone else…

Because here’s the thing: There are no pace requirements for toeing a start line—or crossing a finish line. You are not too slow to chug water from a tiny paper cup and press on. Or to stop your RunKeeper or Strava or Garmin or whatever tracking toy you prefer and look at your effort and say, “I’m proud of what I did today.”

You revel in your success.

You are not too slow to chug chocolate milk and remember doing the same thing when you were 7 years old. You are not too slow to debate the merits of Gu versus gummies versus peanut butter–stuffed dates. Or to sit with your running buddies at a post-race brunch, reflecting on every twist and turn and congratulating each other’s new PRs. You are not too slow to be ridiculously happy for each other and eat a giant stack of chocolate chip pancakes at the same time.

You can set new goals, too.

You are not too slow to run your first ultra. Your first marathon. Your first half. Your first 5K. Your first mile.

You, my friend, are not too slow to be a runner. You already are one.