Monday, 2 February 2015

The joy of running slowly

What is our obsession with speed?

As a runner I constantly want to run faster and faster, get a new Personal Best (PB) time for the marathon, half marathon or 10k. I want to get to where ever I am I going quicker and earlier. But is that always the best approach and ironically my running - and life - experiences seem to tell me the exact opposite is often the case.

I recently visited my sister-in-law and her beautiful two year-old daughter.

My sister-in-law is an incredibly proud mother (which is only natural) and was talking about the different areas that my niece is ahead for her age - different motor skills and language skills etc. It is true that she is incredibly talented for her age but I started to question whether our we've all become obsessed with achieving things quicker and earlier. 

As a runner I am all too aware of this obsession with speed. Running quicker, finishing earlier.

But if I look back at my life speed rarely matters in the long run and has very rarely made me happy.

I didn't start to talk until I was five years-old. Yes you read that right - I hardly said a word until I was five and definitely string any sentences together before then. Unlike most people I can actually remember when I first started talking - and as my father has always joked - I "haven't shut-up since" (at least I hope it is a joke).

I am by any definition a late developer.

It's not just in speaking that I started late. I'm now 6ft 2inches tall but for a long time in my childhood I was one of the smallest kids at school, (my brother used to actually pray for me to grow). And going to an all boys school from the age of 11 to 18 I didn't even know that girls existed until I went to university - I am a late developer. 

I started running late in life. I was over 40 before I ran my first marathon, but three years on I'm about to run my ninth marathon in London this April. 

I started speaking when I was five, I started running when I was forty. But who cares? Does it matter? I frequently take part in public speaking now and I often place in the top three for my age at (smaller) running events. Starting late has not hindered my enjoyment or my achievements in any way.

My wife also runs. She runs far slower than I do but she enjoys the races she's taken part in just as much as I do. In many ways she enjoys them more than I do. Many the time we have finished a race and she will talk to me about how beautiful the scenery of the run was and all I can talk about is the running vest of the person in front of me that I was fixated on. One of my favourite races I have ever taken part in is the South Downs half marathon last summer just outside Brighton - it was also the slowest half marathon I have ever done.

Paradoxically running has taught me that the race is not always for the swift. Life has taught me first is not always best.

I hope my niece continues to grow and showcase her amazing talents. But I also hope that one day when she is a lot older she'll discover what I've only just discovered; the best things in life can take time.

(The picture today is of my beautiful niece who is not running slowly!)

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