I am a turtle; or in praise of Susan

Am I a turtle? I referred to myself as such in my previous post and just had a comment from Susan who tells me I am far from a turtle. Now I could just say “aww, shucks” and leave it at that but she’s right – it’s relative. She’s struggling with her speed at the moment – or rather with the fact that she would like and hoped to be faster – and looks at some of my runs and probably says “what’s she complaining about?”. And I understand that she thinks that – coming from her current point of view.

But the boot, or perhaps more aptly, the running shoe, is often on the other foot. It’s a real toughie, this stuff. I run some of my long runs with a dear friend, Sally, from my running club. Sally is a newbie and has more than 10 years on me. When I met her earlier this year she had never run more than 6M so I convinced her to keep me company for a 10M run. She kept up – with ease. Since then she has gone from strength to strength. She has already run several sub-2hr halves and is now training for the Amsterdam marathon with me. The kicker is that she is training faster and harder than I am – she is keeping up with the Intermediate II program (despite a demanding and more than full-time job) where I’ve had to step back to Intermediate I. It wouldn’t surprise me if she runs a sub 4hour marathon in Amsterdam, something I’m unlikely to ever be able to achieve. She may qualify for Boston – again, something that is beyond me, for a while at least. She is incredibly gracious and modest and is always crediting me for being her inspiration and support but let’s face it – this gal outruns me with ease.

At times, particularly when I’ve struggled with lack of motivation, I have found this really hard to deal with. At other times other runners have made it clear that a “slow” runner like myself is not really a marathoner. I remember telling somebody about a 20M training run I ran last year and his response was “if you’re running at that speed, why on earth do you bother?”..

Steve Runner dedicated a whole episode to a critic of slow marathoners and eloquently made the point that we are all marathoners, despite how long it takes us to get there. I have also heard elite athletes remark with wonder on the ability of mere mortals to just stay out there on our feet for SO long – and they weren’t all being patronising. Susan struggled with a 17 miler yesterday. She did it in several phases and at every point felt like giving up. She was demoralised by her lack of speed and lack of mojo. But she did NOT give up. Where so many would have given up she carried on and made it.

I suppose the truth of the matter is that if you are going to be competitive about it, you have to accept that you will never be the fastest (unless you’re Paula Radcliffe or Paul Tergat but I don’t think they’re reading this). I would consider myself competitive but I would also say that the main competition is within me. Every time I run – however slowly – I win the race against that part of me that would prefer to be welded to my sofa eating a fried potato product. Every time I race I win the race against that part of me that considers myself a quitter. And having gone through life NEVER being any good at any sports whatsover – and this is no false modesty – every single training run is a victory over that part of myself that believes I’m incapable. For those of us who are not elite runners, who fit it in around the rest of our lives and run despite the constraints that other obligations and our physiques may place on us, every run is a win. After all – you could be not running. And you are. So you are – in my definition – a winner, Susan.


12 thoughts on “I am a turtle; or in praise of Susan

  1. Interesting thoughts. I think everyone who goes out there to try to try to improve themselves is a winner. And any step, however small, taken for the sake of getting better is progress. Even it’s just getting back out there to try again.

  2. Wow, that was a great post Petra. It brought tears to my eyes!

    I have a friend just like yours. She only runs occasionally, and still she beats me everytime we race together. Like you said though, we could be NOT running. The majority of the population isn’t getting up at 3:30 AM to run 17 miles, no matter what the speed.

  3. Here, here Petra! What a great post. How right you are that we are all winners because we are out there!

    And, by the way, we are out there because we are winners at heart! It begins inside – the winner in us takes that first step, and the winner in us gets us through!

  4. Before the big charity Boom of runners in 2001-2002, I was an elitest, thinking that those that walked the entire marathon were not marathons. But honestly, with my 4:09 PR time for a marathon, they are just as much marathoners as I am.

    It’s after about the 3rd marathon you have an idea of what kind of a marathoner you are. Take my 4:09 PR time for instance. There are some people out there that could (and do) run their first marathon faster than that… there are others that would love a PR time of 4:09.

    But we are all created differently and we all have different abilities. My 8:15 Tempo pace is some one’s recovery pace, and someone else’s 400 meter pace.

    You just have to be true to what your definition of a runner is and stick with that, don’t worry about someone else’s.

  5. I heard you on, “The Extra Mile!” I am so impressed. It was a well, prepared presentation and wonderfully done!

    That and this post inspires me! I have to look at what I am doing with my training now!


    I linked to your blog from mine, I hope it is OK with you!


  6. Awesome post! And I couldn’t agree with you more.

    We are all winners! Because we are choosing not to be “welded to the sofa” although sometimes it would be easier.

    No matter the speed, we are in the trenches, regularly.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Great post Petra!

    I had a bad run yesterday, and I’m thinking my right leg is slightly strained, so I’m considering taking a few days off, but this weather is so nice!

    POsts like this really help!

  8. Getting out there day after day and mixing the bad runs with the good is what running is about. Sticking with it makes you a winner. I like to call the bad runs as character builders. That is where determination and spirit is built.

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