Get over yourself.
I see you, running in front of your group, pushing the pace. There is a smirk of determination on your lips and even a touch of pride in your eyes. I see your leader 20 feet behind you, trying to keep the group together, trying to keep everyone safe and uninjured, while you decide that you can do a better job than they can, even though this is your very first season with Galloway. Long after your group has passed, a lone figure comes over the hill, defeat and disgust in their eyes. They were running with your group, but you’ve set the pace too fast, too soon, and now they have to run alone, even though they were running at the proper pace.
“They run too slow for me. They run too fast. We need a 12:42 pace group. There are too many runners in my group for me to feel comfortable; I need space. Those slow runners should move back. Those fast runners should move up. Why are we in a 13:00 minute pace group when we are running a 15:00 minute pace? My natural pace is 11:00 minutes, so I need to run at the front of our 13:00 minute group because I don’t like running with the 12:00 minute group. I hate to wait at the water stops. I hate to wait for people to go the bathroom. They need to plan better. I hate running in a group…“
Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute.
YOU signed up for this, the Raleigh Galloway Marathon/Half Marathon training program. You WANTED to run with a group of people, right? You knew you needed the motivation of running with others, so you could meet your goals, right? So now that we are almost halfway through the season, you suddenly decide that this is not what you needed after all and YOU can change the rules? There are over ten pace groups from 7 minutes all the way to 18 minutes, but you can’t find a group that fits your so-called “unique” running style?
Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute.
Get over yourself.
You aren’t that special. In fact, rather than being special, you are a danger to the team; you aren’t thinking about the team at all. It’s all about how YOU are doing and nothing else. And you are annoying everyone around you with your ego issues and your impatience, or your inability to accept your limits. You can’t wait one minute at a water stop so everyone can hydrate without feeling that they will get left behind or worse, lost? You can’t run at a pace one minute slower than your previous PR? You haven’t figured out how to deal with that incontinence problem which sends you in search of a toilet every 10 minutes? Maybe you need to take a deep breath and…wait.
For a few hours every week, we all have an opportunity to run together. And it is a great opportunity; I personally look forward to it. Some of us pay for the privilege; others volunteer as leaders and give up even more of our training time and goals to ensure that those who do pay get their money’s worth and meet their goals, often at the sacrifice of our own goals.
We’ve all made a commitment to meeting our goals and, as leaders, helping others meet theirs, whether it’s a 5k or a 50-miler. All of us, despite our variety of appearances, experiences and running abilities, have similar goals. We all want to cross the finish line, uninjured and still standing. And we want to enjoy doing it. Really. It’s not that complicated. And over 90% of us have no problem with running the proper pace for our pace groups.
But when a few runners decide that they don’t need to follow the rules and can make up their own, it sets a negative precedent that ripples throughout the entire program. Even if your pace group sticks together and is the poster child for how to be a great team, the other pace groups who are having problems playing by the rules will suck energy from the rest of the program. You may not even notice that there is a problem, but eventually, it takes its toll on our leadership.
The word “rules” conjures up negative emotions, but there are well-defined reasons for the rules we follow within our program. From personal safety to group liability, the rules have a reason. As someone said a few years ago, “This is Jeff Galloway’s program, not YOUR program.” If you are one of those runners who doesn’t like the rules, then perhaps rather than changing Jeff’s program, you should move on to a different running program. And there are plenty in our area for you to choose from if following our rules is not for you.
Take a long, hard look at yourself. If you are running much faster or much slower than your pace group, maybe you should move up or move back, rather than force your entire group to change just for your benefit. I’ve been on both ends of this dilemma, and if you, as a runner, let your ego tell you what you should do, no one wins and we all lose.
So get over yourself. You aren’t that special.
You CHOSE to run with this group. Our weekend runs are GROUP runs and they are supposed to be SLOW. They are not about how much faster you can run than “Joe” or “Susan.” They are not about how much faster or better you can run than your group leaders. Being a faster runner means nothing more than you are a fast runner. Being faster won’t make you a better or more worthy person. It most likely won’t make you rich. It won’t earn you respect. And every fast runner ends up getting injured, inevitably. So if being fast is all you have, perhaps you should be a better custodian of your skills and not push yourself to the limit every weekend. Save it for your race, where it truly counts.
Many of the people pushing or slowing the pace are, in fact, running their weekend slow runs at their RACE PACE and their recent race results will prove this fact. If you never do speed work or teach your body to go beyond the speed it runs on our weekend long runs, then most likely, you will run your race at your weekend pace group’s speed. However, this does not mean that you should force everyone in your group to run faster so you’ll be faster on race day. Save the speed work for your personal midweek workouts. And if after all your efforts, you still can’t even keep up with the back of the back, maybe it’s time to do an honest assessment that perhaps you aren’t ready to commit to the training and come back when you are ready.
It’s also important to pay attention to things other than your pace per mile. Wear a heart rate monitor, and if you have one, use a cadence meter. If your heart rate is soaring above Zone 3 (and if you need help finding out what this is, please ask or just Google it), even if you are “in the right pace group,” you are running way too hard for your “weekend long slow run.” Your heart rate should be well within Zone 2. Why are you pushing yourself so hard? Savor your running with a group that is at a pace so comfortable, you still have energy to weed the garden, cut the grass and vacuum the mansion long after your weekend run. Concentrate your speed work for those days you only need to run a few miles.
Rather than work on your speed during your weekend long runs, work on your cadence, or turnover. You can vastly improve your race speed by improving your turnover and you can still stay within the pacing for your group. Jeff has a lot of articles on improving turnover, and you can incorporate these tips into your weekend long runs without pushing the pace.
So why, even after reading this far, can’t you just slow down and enjoy the long run? Or drop back and run with a group whose speed is well within your range? Why is speed so important to you, when so many other factors prevent us from using speed as a worthy comparison to other runners? It’s ok to work towards becoming a faster runner. That is a worthy goal. But unless you are exactly the same age, weight, and genetic makeup of the runners you compare yourself to, how can you reasonably use your speed to prove you are somehow better than they are? The only competition we should have is with ourselves. When you don’t run together with your pace group, you are sending the message that you see yourself as better than they are, and is this really true?
Ask yourself why you feel compelled to break away from your group or feel discouraged when you find yourself falling way behind? Why do you push through the water stops without a second thought that maybe a few seconds rest won’t hurt your training and might help others out? Why do you huff impatiently every time someone says they need a restroom? Every. Single. Week?
When your weekend runs become weekly rants about others’ inability to “play by the rules,” maybe it’s time to do a self-assessment. If you find yourself complaining about the speed of your group or why you keep getting left behind, perhaps it is time to talk with your group leader about moving up or moving back, or finding ways to feel more comfortable running in your chosen pace group. If you need help meeting a PR or a race goal, there are better ways to achieve these goals without putting the rest of your team at risk or annoying everyone in the program by not following the rules.
Get over yourself. It will only take a minute to talk to your team leader. One. Long. Minute. Talk to them about your fear of failure, your fear of being left behind, your fear that this year, you might not finish your race. Talk about all the things that are causing you to ignore the fact that you are running with a group and not by yourself. One minute.
And it might end up being the best minute of your life. Rules are not about destroying our dreams. They are often there to make sure we survive long enough to achieve them.