Before I get into this, understand that you can focus on both pace and purpose. This isn’t “one is better than the other.” This is more about my personal journey and where I’ve landed in the amazing, meaningful world of running.
The truth is that I have spent so much time agonizing over being fast. I have spent many nights on my treadmill crying over doing speed drills that I hated doing, simply telling myself that it’s what I needed to do.
I was certain that acceptance into the running community rode on being fast. Be a person who places and takes a photo with a trophy or a pie or a medal or a plaque, or maybe the running community just isn’t for you…right?
As most of you know, I’ve spent the last five weeks or so engulfed in a new part of the running community: race directing. It’s been the proverbial equivalent of the steeplechase: hurdle after hurdle and obstacle after obstacle. And yet, I leap over them. I see the opportunity in the Youngstown Marathon. I see what it can do for the city. I realize that sure, maybe year one of the Youngstown Marathon won’t be equivalent to year 100 of the Boston Marathon (and it doesn’t need to be, but you’d be surprised at the negativity thrown at me sometimes…), but there’s something very special about our race.
The Youngstown Marathon is a product of determination. It’s born out of years of being labeled as the “rust belt” and as a city that used to have opportunity. It’s fighting its way to the top because it deserves to be there. Our city deserves this.
Maybe, just maybe, “decay” isn’t what we are anymore. We are a city of honesty. We are a city of hard working entrepreneurs who want to make a difference. We are Youngstown, and we have a purpose for everything we do.
All of this, and my experience so far as race director, has made me realize that sure – a fast pace is nice. But that’s sure not what I’m letting define me as a runner anymore. I’m never going to run a 5k in 16 minutes. I’m never going to win my age group in a marathon. I’m never going to be the person who shows up at local races and hear people whispering “oh great, there goes my shot at placing.” Trust me; it will never be me. It could be if I wanted it to be, but I don’t really care of that’s ever me. I care about why I am running, not how fast I execute it.
Nearly two years into my running career, I have a pretty firm grasp on why I am here.
I am here to show the world that your passion is what gets you noticed. If you’re passionate about speed, run as damn there fast as you can. If you’re passionate about raising money for charity, do it and do it 150%. If you’re passionate about breaking the typical runner image of a skinny girl in a sports bra that has not one ounce of fat on her, go – do it – break that societal norm. Whatever it is, do it. Do it big. Bigger than anyone else has done it.
What is my passion? I’m here to tell the world that so-called “standards” don’t matter. I run a “fast” mile of 9:00 or so (on a good day). Don’t apologize for running at a pace that you enjoy. Don’t apologize for going for what you want full speed and passing everyone else. Don’t apologize because you wanted it more than everyone else. That’s their problem, not yours.
I am here to inspire forward thinking and make it known that I will be unstoppable regarding what I believe in. People around you who tell you that the world/city/whatever isn’t “ready” for your idea? Yeah, forget that immediately. That’s the type of comment people make who can’t stand to see other people succeed. Trust me.
Me: I’m going to start a running blog.
Them: You’ve barely been running for a year. No one is going to listen to you.
Pushing 5,000 IG followers? Yeah, pretty sure people are listening.
Me: I’m going to run a half marathon.
Them: You never ran in high school or ever, really. Don’t you think that’s too much?
Three half marathons under my belt and I am onto number four in May. Sorry not sorry.
Me: I’m going to direct a marathon in Youngstown.
Them: You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to put Youngstown on the map as a failure. You’re going to make this a one year event. You’re not cut out for this.
Title sponsor – check. Growing registration – check. Over 30 ambassador applications in four days from people who want to champion the race – check. Growing race volunteer base- check. Media involvement & support – check. Support from city officials – check. Out of state registrations – check. Bye Felicia.
I am here to teach everyone I meet that being strong-willed isn’t the same as being a “bitch.” Standing up for yourself makes you a believer in who you and what you do. Ridding yourself of negativity and negative people makes you smart, not mean. Having a backbone makes you stand taller, and people don’t like being towered over. Oh well. They’ll get over it.
Stand up for your pace. Be so damn proud of yourself for breaking that 13 minute mile. Celebrate that because it deserves to be celebrated.
I ran a 5k once in 27 minutes and some and got first place in my age group. Someone actually commented “congrats” with the laughing emoji because let’s face it – it isn’t the fastest. A let that bother me for months, and then I thought…forget it. I never ran 200 meters before I turned 27. I put myself out there with love handles hanging over pre-pregnancy shorts and had zero friends or allies in the running community, and I did it anyway. So many people passed me in the park as I ran along with a crank toddler in tow and didn’t even acknowledge me. And I owe you something…? Nope. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.
27 minutes and some? Yeah, I’m proud as proud can be. Maybe I’m not as fast as you, but if being as fast as you means I have to be you, count me out.
Being a runner involves tough, tough skin. Being a so called “slow” runner involves even more tough skin. You always find yourself explaining your pace. You always find yourself driving home, with a tear in your eye, because a group of runners ask if you “Oh, you’re just running the half?” You never feel like you fit in 100%.
Congratulations. You’re part of a group that persevers through a lot more than humidity, injuries, and buckets of sweat. Wear it proudly.
Whatever you’re here for, go all in. Don’t apologize to other people for ceasing opportunities they were blind to. Be a champion. That’s what you’re here for.