What is Fast and Does It Matter

Running 1985Does it really matter how fast you are?

By the way who decides what is and who is fast?

Okay Harold where are you going with this? You write an awful lot on this blog about your efforts to run farther, faster.

To be honest I am not sure and this post has brought more questions to my mind than answers and I need your help to sort it out.


So what is fast?

Think about this first:

One person’s slow is another’s fast and it could be that another person’s fast is someone else’s slow.

In my experience – defining fast running, depends more on the person who is doing the running and their perspective, than a particular time. Are you talking about a professional Olympic caliber runner, local race winner, middle of the pack runners, a 70 year-old runner who has run for 50 years, a runner who doesn’t race or a runner who is finishing their first Couch to 5K?

Is there a common definition of what should be considered fast? How do you account for the different variables of age, course, terrain, weather, distance, etc., to determine fast? What standard are we comparing it to or is it that we know fast when we see it or read about it.

A good example of this is taking the race I ran in yesterday. The winning time was 17:58 for a 5K, a sub 6:00 minute pace which isn’t slow, but in many larger races that wouldn’t even get a top 20 or 50 finish, so is it fast or not?

It depends on the course, who is doing the running and the level of the competition.

The 1st place I got in my age group for yesterday’s 5K, was almost 4:00 minutes behind the winner and my overall place was 28th. If I go to a different race, I could finish lower or higher – depending upon the number of runners and level of the competition that I would be racing against that day with the same time.

So does my 21:49 for a 5K make me a fast runner or a slow runner?

Does it depend on who I am talking to?

So Why run faster?

The Challenge

To me trying to run faster is all about challenging myself – nothing more and nothing less.

I want to see if I can improve over what I have done before. The idea of winning a race (which isn’t going to happen) or taking an age group once in a while by accident (which is what really happens) isn’t the reason that I try to run faster – it is more about my personal satisfaction.

The reality is that

Most runners keep trying to run faster, but their faster is more about how they run, not anyone else. Yesterday, I thought that I ran fast even though I finished 28th in the race and then while talking to many people who finished with slower times, they were equally very happy with their “fast” times. While some runners who finished with faster times were totally dissatisfied with their “slow” times.

Running fast it seems is relative and all about perspective.

What do you think?

  • What is your definition of fast?
  • Do you consider yourself fast? Why or Why Not?
  • Are you trying to run faster than you do now? Why?
  • Which is more important to you continuing to run PR’s or running when you are 70 or older?

I bet some of these answers will depend upon the age of the person answering too Winking smile. I know that my answers have changed over the years.

Personally, I don’t worry so much about whether I am considered fast or not by others. I worry more about being able to run, enjoy it and whether I am meeting the goals that I set for myself.

What about you?


13 comments on “What is Fast and Does It Matter

    • I really been asked to do a guest post since I started A Veteran Runnah, hadn’t thought that much about it. Contact me via email with what you are looking for and we can talk some more :-). Thank you for your comment.

  1. I love this post. All to often people get caught up in the speed game. I’m all for challenging myself and working on improving my times, but I’ve given up comparing my time to anyone else’s. For too long I was measuring my success relative to what others were accomplishing. I failed to take into a account I’ve only started really running this year, and only seriously training for 6 months. Yet so easily got down on myslf that I wasn’t anywhere near the paces of people that have trained for years, have different goals, or just plain have a genetic makeup that makes them naturally faster.
    Luckily, I’ve begun just looking back on my progress over the last year and can see I am getting faster, for me. My own progress counted against my own records is all I care about now. I will happily celebrate a friend running a race 10 min. faster than me, but I will be just as ecstatic with my time if I’ve beaten my own time. I think the key is to never compare yourself to another. But I suppose that’s true in life in general.

    • Thank you, maybe I should of titled it “Keeping up with the Jones’ :-). It doesn’t really matter who you are on any given day or course you could be faster or slower. The only person you really have to please is yourself :-).

  2. The thing with aging is that it changes your view of fast. I think 7 minute miles are pretty fast for, I hate to say this, your age. In my mid-forties I injured my knee, which slowed me down considerably. As I got better, my times never returned to the low twenties that I used to run. I used to blame it on my knee, but I must just face that I’m getting older. Today, at 54, I’m happy if I run around 26 minutes, though if I caught the speed bug again I might have to actually do some training and get those numbers down. I still think of my time as pretty slow though, but for some runners it would be a goal achievement. This was a long way of saying that speed is relative to each person, their skills, talent, training and age. Pretty much what you were saying, too. 🙂

    • Thank you, my times will never return to what I ran in my 20’s, but that is okay, I am still running today and that is the most important thing :-). like you said if we train for speed we can run a little faster :-), but it is just to meet our own wants and needs, not someone else’s expectations :-).

  3. I loved this post! I will never run a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon, but I have run myself down to 123 lbs., low BP, low cholesterol, and into a size 4 jeans! The runner’s high I usually achieve from a 9:30 mile (on a good day) is reason enough to keep going! I want to still be running 40 miles per week when I am 70!

    • Isn’t being healthy what it is all about! Speed is way down on the list of what is important and I hope that we are both running 40 mile weeks when we are 70 and if we are we should meet and do a couple together in 15 or so years and smile about it :-).

  4. How ironic, I just wrote a post about “speed and running fast” before I caught your post here. I have many of the same sentiments you have about this topic. I think most of us “think” we want to be faster but what we really want is to be a “good runner” – and those are often two different things. I’ve had people tell me they think I’m fast yet I know so many who blow past me very easily in speed. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, perception. I think ultimately, we have to adapt our running to our own unique abilities, age, traits, and health!

  5. Pingback: AVR–Week In Review 10/7/12 | A Veteran Runnah

  6. Pingback: Is your training pace to fast? « Every Run's a Winner

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