Rerun: Words I Hate: “Only,” “But” and “SLOW”

Maybe Clove’s best post, well that isn’t part of a 100 mile race report! Clove’s had it with all of us diminishing our accomplishments and questioning our legitimacy as runners. It’s time we start taking credit for what we’ve accomplished and take pride in ourselves. And in so doing, we can better support each other too! This post was originally published on May 9, 2012.

– Salty


World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka - ...
Catherine Ndereba is one of the greatest marathoners of all times and a real runner. News Flash: you’re a real runner too. Image via Wikipedia.

This post is for you – and you already know who you are.  You’re the one reading this hoping to learn more about us “real runners.”  You might even be hoping to be one of us … someday.

I’ve met a lot of you already, some of you at pace team booths, some of you at parties, some of you when I used to work at the law firm.  I meet you on airplanes, at the gym, at church.  Honestly, it’s kind of like “The Sixth Sense.”  I find you everywhere.

But you’re embarrassed to talk about running with me, or it’s actually a mutual friend who tells me that you run, much to your chagrin.  And why?

Because you only run 5K’s.

Because you did a marathon once, but not nearly as many as I’ve done.

And worst of all – the cardinal sin – because you’re “slow.”

Image courtesy of

Or what about this?   “I just finished chemo three months ago, but I managed to run-walk Race for the Cure.”

These are real live statements.  This is what we do to ourselves.

Yep.  I run fast(ish) marathons and close to 100 miles a week and place in 100 milers.

But I’m not as fast as Krissy Moehl.  Or Nikki Kimball.  Or Ellie Greenwood.

And the times I placed it was only because the faster runners had to drop.

Doesn’t that sound awful?

I run fast(ish) marathons and close to 100 miles a week and place in 100 milers.  But you know what two of my favorite races were?  45 and 50 minute 5K’s.  One was with my friend Amy, who, like Salty’s friend Tim, had recently quit smoking.  Three months later, we lined up for the Jingle Bell 5K together.  Amy cried at the finish.  I would have too.

The other was with my mom.   My very overweight mother who had lost almost 100 pounds, and after years of traveling to marathons with me decided she would run-walk the companion 5K at the Mardi Gras Marathon.  I was so proud of her that I switched from the full marathon to the half marathon so I could do the 5K with her, then pick up the half marathon course at the start/finish line of the figure-8 course.

I’ve never fought the weight battle.  Sure, I dropped some lb’s (and my boobs) when I started running.  But that was just a bonus.

I don’t know what it’s like to balance training with a family.  Hubby and I don’t have to work around school and day care and quality time with the kids.  And he runs too, so if we feel like we’ve been disconnecting, we just schedule our runs at the same time, even if we run separately.

I haven’t experienced major illness.  I don’t know what it’s like to fight through three miles during chemotherapy, or how to make my body work again after cancer.  I pray I never have to learn these things, but other women do it every single day.

Work, family, illness, weight, depression, fear of failure.  Divorce, miscarriage, parental death.  Women are out there fighting these demons every single day.

And I dare any of them to say “but,” “only,” or “slow.”

Webster’s defines the verb “race” as follows:  “to go, move or function at top speed.”  You will note there is no mention of pace; of running or walking or combining the two; or even of specified distance.  It is merely “to go, move or function at top speed.”  It is a moving target.

So keep moving, move proudly, and most importantly, own it.

Have you ever tried to “race” while hanging your head?

It’s not easy, is it?

I finished Boston two weeks after I ran a 100 mile PR. BUT I didn’t even manage to break 4 hours. (Sarcasm intended.)
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Trail and adventure enthusiast. Girl who swears like a sailor but not when she's teaching Sunday School. Survived infertility without a successful pregnancy. Self-employed, primarily working for Clif Bar and Company. Thirteen 100-mile race finishes with seven top 3 placements. An original Saltine.

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  1. I like this post so much better than the rerun of Ginger’s “I did a marathon once” that you posted yesterday. I’m quite a lot older than any of the Salties and I’m not a great or fast runner, but I’ve been running for 20 years. For myself. Not for you. I do laugh about placing second or third in my division in a 5K when there were only five in my age group! I AM slow! But I finish the race and that’s what matters to me. I am in awe of the women my age who are competitive, and I don’t look down on or discount the efforts of those who take even longer than I do to finish whatever race we’re running. Those who have a problem with my slow marathon time need to mind their own business. And I’ll definitely stay out of their way!

    1. Thanks, Kim! We at Salty Running support all of us women in the pursuit of excellence, whatever that may be for each of us! That being said, we also like to discuss the “darker” side too. I agree that Clove’s post today is much more positive and feel-good, but I like Ginger’s post too because in a way I think she was demonstrating exactly what it is Clove would like us to move past from. And I’m sure Ginger isn’t the only one who thinks that about her own or even others’ performances. It’s not easy (or perhaps possible) to be perfectly positive all the time, especially when it comes to something, like our running performance, that we care about so deeply. So I think it’s good to air out that stuff too and get us talking about it. I remember when I first edited Ginger’s post and I really didn’t think that deeply about it (I was knee-deep in morning sickness at the time!) but after it was published and I read what others were saying about it I fleshed out my own opinions and it gave me the opportunity to write about my friend Tim and others like him who might be “slow,” but nevertheless inspire the heck out of me!!!! Thanks so much for stopping by and keep on keeping on rocking it out at the races!!!!

      1. Thanks for the clarification, Salty and thanks for the input Kim! I agree with you! Writing that post revealed some demons and helped me to become more secure as a runner.

  2. When I started out, these three words factored heavily into how I saw myself as a runner. It’s only recently that I’ve come to embrace being a runner and my level of competition. After more than a year of running and more races than I can count, I just *raced* my first race last night. I didn’t second-guess myself, I didn’t hold back for fear of falling short, I flat-out RACED. I was faster than I ever was and PR’ed my 5K by almost 2 minutes, and I realized I let the “only,” “but,” and “slow” hold me back this whole time.

    Suffice to say, perfect timing on this rerun!

  3. I LOVE this!! I’ve steered clear of this week’s ‘slow marathon’ posts because I don’t know the answer…I think it depends on how the individual views it. I know I’m prone to talk my running down because I’m not fast and I’ll never win anything apart from maybe a giveaway on the odd blog. But I’m a runner.

    I’m medium-paced, non-skinny, non-marathon-doing, non-Garmin-wearing, non-foam-rolling, non-cross-training and few-race-doing.

    But I’m a runner. I run. I love it. And as I get older, I’m learning to make fewer apologies and just to claim the title.

    A not-skinny one (but one with strong legs).

    A half-marathoner,

    1. Awesome, Cathryn! I love the idea of us all accepting our selves and our running selves for what they are and being unapologetic about it. Cheers to that!