The Upside to Being Mediocre

Hey y’all. It’s me again. Second post this week! I’ll wait for you to pick your jaw off the ground. I had another mini-post brewing in my mind so I thought I’d write it while it was still fresh.

Before I start, I feel like I need to define some things. When I say I’m a midpack, mediocre runner, I’m saying that in the most objective way possible. I’m not trying to get you to say, “What? You’re not slow!”, or, “But you’ve won age group awards and stuff!” What I *am* saying is: in large races, I usually come in somewhere between the 30th to 50th percentiles. Now that’s slightly above average, but I’m not cracking the top 10%. And the top 10% are the “fast” people I’ll be talking about below.

So, a few days ago, I was having a Twitter conversation with a runner friend, as you do. He’s been battling injury and said he wants to make sure not to do too much too soon as he attempts to make a return to running. The next thing I know, he’s tweeting about a speed workout. I pointed out to him the contradiction between his intent vs. his actions. His response was along the lines of, “Running has always been about pushing myself. If I’m not running fast, I get bored and it’s not fun for me.”

I should point out that he’s someone I’d put in the category of “Fast Runners” — people who usually have a natural ability and easily Boston Qualify without thinking about it. Some people in this group win races outright – and I find their performances inspirational because I know that they’re normal people who have jobs and lives outside of running. Fast Runners – they’re just like us!

Anyway, my friend’s response got me thinking. Yes, I agree it’s (Type II) fun to run fast and push yourself. But for me, it’s also enjoyable to run for the sake of it — as an escape from work or to feel some dirt and rocks under your feet. There have been times when I’ve been relegated to running very, very slowly. I never got an endorphin rush, but I can tell you that not running would’ve made me feel worse.

On top of that, I feel that being a middle of the pack runner means I have SO MANY opportunities to get better. I can see how, from the perspective of the Fast Runner, there’s not that much farther you can go when you’re already so much closer to the top. I can talk about all of my process-oriented goals and they mean something to me, because running does not come naturally to me and I have to work hard at all aspects of it. The Fast Runner may also run into some of these problems, but making their body go fast isn’t one of them.

So, it’s a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving, but I just wanted to express how thankful I am for being a mediocre runner because it allows me to enjoy running in all its forms and give me plenty of room for growth.

Disclaimer: I know I’m oversimplifying things by categorizing people into 2 classes – fast and not. I’m only speaking for myself and my own experience… I don’t mean to generalize things. But I’m interested to hear your take and what you think. Sound off in the comments!


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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14 comments on “The Upside to Being Mediocre
  1. Ed says:

    There’s definitely less pressure on ourselves to hurt ourselves by too much speedwork!

  2. From one mediocre runner to another, cheers! **clinks glass**

  3. Mike says:

    β€œThere is no such thing as an average runner. We are all above average.”
    – Hal Higdon

  4. RoadBunner says:

    So I have never given thought to fast runners and where do they go from there in terms of results. I figure they are just like us and chip away at PRs. What I have given thought to is that it is nice to identify as a “average/slower” runner in the longterm. I consider myself pretty mid-pack like you but when I started I considered myself much more back of the pack. And deep down I still think of myself that way. On one hand it is hard because while I’m trying to get faster almost every run blows my mind a little, but on the other hand it is very easy for me to take it easy. I’m dedicating a few more years to marathon PRs then I plan to hang up that hat and just run them for fun and I’m totally cool and even looking forward to that. I won’t mind bopping along and running 5-6 hour marathons years from now and I consider that a huge plus. I think people who have always had great times find that transition much harder as we age. So yes, benefit to being “slow.” Though, I’d love to have had some natural talent because that lots of perks, too πŸ˜‰

  5. BT says:

    I also enjoy being a mediocre runner. Much less pressure. Cheers to us!

  6. gracechua31 says:

    *raises glass* *clinks* deep down I’ll always have Turtle Girl, that 6-hour marathoner with no natural talent πŸ™‚

    on the other hand, I think even Fast Runners have to work hard at their process goals, too. They might not have to work so hard at their time goals (or at least the objective ones that the running community considers impressive, like qualifying for Boston or another major), but they have to work on process goals just like the rest of us…

    • Jen says:

      Yes, I agree that fast runners also have to work hard, and many have the same disappointments and triumphs as the rest of us. However, I think what I meant to say is what RoadBunner stated more eloquently above — that fast runners may need to have a different mental adjustment to what is satisfying for them. It seems that some pros/elites have a really good attitude about slowing down with age, but others throw in the towel as soon as they can’t compete.

  7. Jia-Shieu OuYang says:

    Way to be a good example of being consistent and disciplined and developing this “health hobby” of running! Some of us find it hard to push ourselves beyond our comfort level…..

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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