I’ve been running for 2 years, but only towards the end of last year did I really start to embrace the party at the back of the pack.
I’m not a fan of crowds (although I can deal with them if needed), I’m not a fan of going eyeballs out and pushing myself (again, I can if I want to), and I run a far better race if I start out steady, take the time to find my pace, then move up the gears if needed.
I now have no problem with saying goodbye to my friends and moving to the back of the start line. It doesn’t bother me if I’m the last runner, and actually I’d much rather start further back and pass people than start too far up and be overtaken by loads.
Plus there’s so much more fun at the back! As Lisa Jackson explains so well in her book Your Pace or Mine, the party really is at the back. You’ll find the most positive, encouraging and friendliest people at the back of the race.
Last Sunday I ran Alsager 5, a flat 5 mile road race. It was technically my long run for the week (I appreciate 5 miles isn’t far but I’m just starting a long, gradual marathon training plan) and I was dithering about what to do. Do I take it really slow and steady as I should my long runs? Do I use a run:walk ratio to keep it steady. Do I try and push it a little and try to beat last years time?
I decided to set off steady and see how I felt. I settled in to a pace I found enjoyable, a pace I felt like I could maintain for further than 5 miles, and I just enjoyed myself.
I plodded along, giving thanks to the marshals and spectators, laughing at the great signs and briefly chatting with fellow runners. I simply enjoyed the act of running, noticing how good I felt, that my body didn’t feel tired or exhausted, noticed how my core was holding me up and that my posture felt good.
The nice thing about being at the back is that you overtake people! It feels so good to pick people off one by one. My first three miles were 11:25, 11:13 & 11:34 pace, so fairly consistent, but through various reasons some people will slow down or take walk breaks so you find yourself passing a few people.
After 3 miles I started to step it up. I’d be feeling comfortable and everything felt good so I decided to push it a little, my muscles felt like they had more to give.
I kept turning my legs over, kept pushing it, kept overtaking people. As I turned the last corner I sprinted my heart out.
I finished feeling really really good. I’d actually loved every minute of that.
My time was a minute slower than last year but I was completely content with that as the experience has been so much better.
It’s your run, your race, your day, and you do whatever you want to do in that moment, and don’t let anyone else make you feel bad for it. It doesn’t matter if others do differently, don’t compare yourself, just do you.