Culture

Why You Should Be Proud To Be A Middle-Of-The-Pack Runner

Frontrunners and those pulling the rear get all the glory—what about those that finish in that middle mass of runners?

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*Post Courtesy of Rachel Goldman of Someone Will Appreciate

Since I haven’t been able to run lately, its obviously been consuming my mind more than usual because it is such a big part of my life and I miss it so. So because I can’t physically do it, why not talk about even more, right?

In my tenure as a runner I have completed 10 marathons, and although some of these were way more difficult than others, I am very proud of them all. Soon after I complete one of them, I get my fair share of congratulations as well as some questions about the race. Two of those most common questions are: “How long was your marathon?” which usually followed by Did you win? I’m not sure which question irritates me more, but I have learned how to answer both of them without getting too agitated.

First and foremost, a marathon is a measure of distance so a marathon is a marathon…is a marathon. It’s 26.2 miles. Second, no, I didn’t win. I absolutely have never even come close to winning one (or thinking I could win one) and I am not ashamed at all. You see, I finish about right in the middle. In a marathon of about 40,000 finishers, I finish about 20,000th place. And you know what? I’m totally okay with that.

I happily would describe myself as a “middle-of-the-pack” runner. Believe me, I know I am not alone. In fact, there are a lot of us out there, but we aren’t talked about a lot. Often times, we read about the elite runners and their training plans along with their hard work and everything else that is involved in developing their amazing talent. There is sometimes talk of the back-of-the-pack runners who don’t ever get enough credit for what they accomplish. What some people seem to forget is that those at the back-of-the-pack, right down to the last place finisher, are still finishing. No matter what their time is, they still covered the same distance as everyone else and deserve no less congratulations than anyone else. But beyond those who are first and who are last, there us in-betweeners, us middle-of-the-packers; the ones that no one really talks about.

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Perhaps we are too hard to define? Perhaps we don’t have a definitive place and just blend together? But you know what? There are a lot of us!

To some people this can be a tad confusing because, as a middle-of-the-pack runner, I am not necessarily a casual runner just running for the sole purpose of getting exercise. Nor am I most definitely competing to win any type of awards at any race. I fit right in the middle. Just because I don’t finish in with the front-of-the-pack and am not leading the way doesn’t mean I don’t have goals of my own that I want to crush. You see, although I may not be in competition with those elite runners, I am in competition: with myself. I am doing this for me. I am going against me and only me each time. I want to better my best. I have the same preparation, train and drive that those elite runners have, just not the same talent.

Although I’ve been an athlete my whole life, running was something that I never liked—not to mention I never had the typical “runner’s body;” don’t even get me started on that whole issue and how people feel it’s okay to comment on that. I dreaded running the mile in school and actually saw running as punishment throughout my volleyball, soccer and basketball years. When I started to get more fit in college, I decided to start running. My mom was a runner and always told me one day I would find the love she had for it. Naturally, I thought she was crazy for loving running so much.

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I initially started running to get some fresh air, have some alone time and burn some calories. Now, I look to running for all the same things along with it giving me a purpose, a sense of adventure and the thrill of challenging myself. While everyone has their reasons for running, no one should be shamed for their pace and time. Unfortunately, this does happen on occasion and it always infuriates me.

Would I love to be faster? Of course. However, I am very aware of my abilities as a runner and what my body is capable of.  I could train with Olympic coaches day-in and day-out and I still probably wouldn’t be able to run a 03:30:00 marathon. Sometimes genetics come into play and in this department, my genes aren’t in my corner. And I’m okay with that. Being in the middle-of-the-pack does not make me any less a runner than anyone else and damn sure doesn’t make me any better than those behind me.

Most of us have our “fast running friends” and perhaps to someone else, I am the fast friend. Regardless of where anyone else sees me, what’s important to me how I see myself as a runner. With my middle-of-the-pack status I am realistic about what I can do, which is to do the best I can with what I’ve got. I know the time and effort that I put into it and that’s all that really matters. When someone is cheering in the crowd at a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or a full marathon, look for me. I’ll be in the middle-of-the-pack, proud of it, and continuing to bust my butt and cross that finish line with a big smile on my face.