Going Faster by Going Slower

August 19, 2011

Kissing our finisher medals at Bondi Beach

On Tuesday, the official times came out for the City2Surf runners. John and I were pretty well shocked! Last year he ran the race in 1 hour, 31 minutes, 42 seconds (1:31:42). I ran it in 2:13:27. We both ran the whole way, including up the 2km Heartbreak Hill. (I thought I was going to die, but I ran it.)

This year John ran the 14km race in 1:16:49! That's 14 minutes 53 seconds faster! And we were both whining about how we're in worse shape this year. With the encouragement of my friend Camy, I used the Galloway method, a series of run/walk intervals, up the hills so that I walked a total of about 10-12 minutes of the race, coming in with a final time of 1:52:44! I went 20 minutes and 43 seconds faster!

Cold and wet before the race even starts - the banner says, "Here for the long run"

Now, if you're like us, you're wondering what in the world we did differently, especially if we say we were in worse shape. (And that's a fact – we were topping out at about 11km during our training runs, but last year we were running hills and doing about 15-20km big runs.) We figured out that probably the biggest factor was that last year we were also entered in a half marathon in September, about five weeks after the City2Surf. We'd never run this course before, we'd heard how horrible Heartbreak Hill was, and we were trying to save ourselves and not hurt ourselves before our bigger race.

John pretends to run when the gun goes off - too many people to move quickly, you have to walk at first

Due to our schedules, we aren't running the half marathon this year. We decided to just relax and have as much fun as we could and if we came in 10 or 15 minutes slower than last year, so be it. We never dreamed relaxing and having fun with it – and me walking part of the race – would improve our times so drastically.

My friend Lauraine pointed out there's a good life lesson here. Sometimes we have to slow down in order to move faster. When I was feeling winded, I stopped running and walked at a leisurely pace for 60 seconds. By then, I had my breath back and when I started running again, I was moving faster. I kept telling myself when I was tired – particularly up Heartbreak Hill – that I only had to run for the balance of the five minutes and then I could take a breather. That promise helped me to keep up my pace.

Soaking wet before we start - but happy to be there

I wonder in how many areas of our lives we can apply this. I know I can apply it on overly busy days. Sometimes I have to just sit down for as little as fifteen seconds and close my eyes and think of only the next three things I have to do. It helps me to focus, which helps me to get those three things done just a little bit faster and/or better.

I've tried several different writing routines including the “write as fast as you can and fix it later” approach that so many people tout. But over the last few years, between National Novel Writing Month's 50,000-word spree and my many homework assignments and due dates, I've found that really does not yield me the best long-term results.

Wringing a stream of water out of my sweatshirt after the rain dumped on us

For me, I have to write the scene in my head until it's done. Then instead of moving on, I go back and add in all the parts that were still in my head because I was typing too fast to get it all out. Once the scene is pretty well written, I can move on to the next scene. When I come back to do the second draft, there is far less work to be done. I may take longer to write a first draft, but I can finish the whole book more quickly by taking my time.

The other thing that made me think about its life application is this. I ran slow enough last year that I had to move into a slower group this year, the Yellow Start. The only people starting after the Yellow group was the Orange, people who didn't plan on running or who were going to push baby strollers. I was pretty bummed about having to be in the slow group.

Why did it have to rain NOW? But did we run faster because of the weather?

But then I got an email before the race. The Yellow Start group was going to try to break a Guiness Book of World Records record for the most people stretching at one time. The last record was 9000 people in London. A few minutes before the start gun went off for the Yellow group, someone led us in group stretches. The old record was broken – more than 20,000 people stretched together on Sunday! And I was a part of it! It made me think I shouldn't whine when things don't go my way. Instead I should look for the silver lining, the little extras we wouldn't have had if things went as planned.

What about you? Does any of this ring true for things in your life?

Responses

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    1. I like that you started asking that question, Kathleen. It’s made me start asking it and being better able to answer why I want to do things differently.

    1. Thanks, Camy! I haven’t used it for the last couple years because I wanted to grow beyond it. But it really had an amazing effect on this race! As I mentioned to you when we were running in Central Park (I just love saying that!), I’m going to start using it for training more – sprints, high knees jumping thing to increase leg strength, etc. Can’t wait till we get to run a race together!! 🙂

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