On Slowing Down

This is not a post railing against the fast-paced and out-of-control world we live in, railing against everyone always on phones or obsessing over glowing rectangles. (Although goodness knows I love Neil Postman.) It is, rather, about my efforts learning to run more slowly to get myself faster.

I didn’t really enjoy running until I started dating, got engaged to, and eventually married, a runner. Living in Portland, Oregon, where I could run outside all year round surely increased my love for the activity.

But it hasn’t been until this year that I started learning how to run at different paces. Prior to this year, I would normally run at whatever pace, not considering it much (except running faster, and certainly never to run at a slower pace). To my uninformed and immature running brain, running slowly on purpose was a silly idea. And certainly, the idea that I could use slow runs to improve my speed (for races) felt counterintuitive at best, absurd at worst.

Yet, in January when I began training for a 10-K (my first race in nearly 6 years), I decided to “try” what the training plan referred to as “easy runs.” The explanation said that I needed to be able to speak in full sentences. Because I always run by myself, I had no idea what this would mean for me once I tried it. At first, it felt to my body as though I might as well have walked instead. How could this be running? It felt as though I were cheating somehow, in some way.

I’m six months into learning how to run “easy” (defined for me as close to 11:00/mile pace). Now I’m starting to believe in and experience the main reason for doing slow runs: to give my body a rest from and to prepare for harder workouts that I still enjoy more. Those 20-minute tempo runs (at race pace). Those 1/4 mile repeats (sometimes 6, sometimes 8) alternating running 1/4 mile with jogging a 1/4 mile.

I should mention that around that same time I started running slowly, I also decided to stop wearing my ear buds. Partly for safety, partly for something different. I still play music softly on my my iPhone speaker, listening to my go-to background ambient music, Hammock, on shuffle while the MapMyRun informs me every 1/4 mile of my overall pace, which on the “easy” days I try to sustain at that 11:00/mile pace.

It’s a learning process. But I am noticing more around me. Hearing more around me. So many birds singing, squawking, yammering. And I’m at a better pace to take it all in.

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