A wonderful thing has been happening in the past decade or so: Americans are running. From 5Ks on up to the marathon and beyond, the nation is experiencing a running boom unlike no other. The American elite is winning marathons while further on down the ladder, runners fill the ranks from age group aces to weekend walkers. I have been very fortunate to become friends with some of the legends in the sport while also counting among my friends those who are just happy to finish a marathon under six hours. In doing so, I have noticed something surprising: a slight backlash against those who run fast.
“I run to enjoy myself and do not care about the time on the clock,” is the crux of the argument against going faster or harder. I am usually met with silence when I ask why bother even showing up for a race when a run by one’s self should create the same enjoyment. Silence is fine. I know the answer. We all enjoy accolades. Do an 18-mile training run and no one at work cares that much. Run in the half-marathon race lined with bands, and bring home a shiny medal, and you receive mounds of attention.
Which leads to the obvious: Everyone wishes they could run faster, if even just a little bit. But why? Well, because the truth of the matter is that running fast is fun. I enjoy the leisurely pace of a long run with friends as much as the next person in short shorts and racing flats. But running hard until sweat soaks the small of your back and your ribs feel like there isn’t enough skin to stretch far enough outward to allow your lungs to expand is extremely rewarding. That moment when both feet leave the ground simultaneously and, for a split second, you are flying is exhilarating.
No, it is not that running fast goes against the enjoyment of the sport. Running fast, by whatever definition “fast” is to each individual runner, is what makes the sport what it is. That temporary flight that separates us from our grounded brethren is what drives us all.
Embrace your wings, unabashedly so.