Why It’s Okay to be a “Back of the Pack” Runner


I started running a little over 2 years ago with the Couch to 5k program. I couldn’t even run for 30 seconds without thinking I was going to collapse. During the program, my running segments were always between 12:30-13 minute mile average pace & at the end, I finished my first 5k in 38:29 (12:23 avg pace). As you can see, I have always been considered a “back of the pack” runner.

Over the last couple of years, I have gotten faster by working my buns off. My current 5k PR is 30:42 (Steelers 5k race recap coming for ya!) & I’ve ran a 10 miler in 1:56 (11:41 avg pace). I am also now a mentor for the 12 minute pace group for Pro Bike + Run which means I mentor all of the bad-ass women at the back of the pack.

I’m going to be 100% honest here, there have been times I’ve been embarrassed at my average pace. I get the question, “Oh, what’s your pace?” or “How fast can you run a ____?” & I always start off saying “Well, I’m a slow runner…” NO WAY. If I heard anyone in my pace group start off a sentence that way, I’d scold them! So why do I choose to say it myself? I am no less of a runner because I don’t run an 8 minute mile. I still lace up my sneakers & run the same amount of miles as they do.

Are you a back of the pack runner? If you are, embrace it.  It may take us 2 hours to run 10 miles, but it just means we’re out there longer. And because we’re out there longer, it means that we make really good friends with the people running the same pace as us. Would you want to be out there for 2 hours with someone you didn’t really like? No? Me neither. The women in my pace group are some of my closest friends. We spend so much time together Saturday mornings all year round that we have no choice but to like each other. 😉

I read somewhere that being a slow runner is “merely a state of mind”. We should not let it affect us. Running should be a positive thing that you do for yourself. Most people run to stay healthy & clear our minds, but I know a lot of us do it for the social aspect. Either way, it’s supposed to be seen as a positive activity. Thinking negatively only hurts you in the long run (pun intended). 🙂 You should never think that you’re going to stay at that pace forever. If it’s something you are really interested in working on, then make it happen! 9 months ago, my 5k personal record was 31:15 & now it’s 30:42. If I had spoken to myself in a negative voice at any point during those 9 months, I never would have been able to get myself to where I did. Most of us will never be an elite runner, & you know what? That’s okay. Speak to yourself in a positive manner & know that most people don’t do what you do. Most people don’t get up at the ass-crack of dawn on a Saturday or Sunday to willingly run 3 miles, 10 miles, 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles. Most people don’t train for 19 weeks in order to finish a race like that. Because YOU got up & YOU put on your running shoes, that makes you great. And about what pace you run? It doesn’t matter.

I do want to make clear that regardless of what pace you run, you are awesome. I don’t want this post to come off to seemingly say that we’re better because we run at the back of the pack. I’m trying to convey that we’re all runners. And we’re all just as great as the next runner because we’re out there. At the end of the day, we run the same amount of miles during a race & we get the same finisher’s medal as everyone else. We are a community & whether you run a 6 minute mile or a 13 minute mile, you are still just as every bit of a bad-ass.

Again, if you are considered a back of the pack runner, it’s okay. If it’s something you want to improve on, then do it. If not, that’s okay too. As long as you keep getting yourself out there & doing something to better your health, I consider that a win. So don’t be afraid to join that running group & don’t be afraid to try something new because you think you’re going to be too slow or you’re afraid you won’t be able to keep up with anybody. We were all beginners once. And we should all respect each other’s choice to get up & get healthy.

– C


8 thoughts on “Why It’s Okay to be a “Back of the Pack” Runner

  1. Steffany R. says:

    LOVE THIS! While I am a “faster” runner, I hate telling people what my paces are. It’s no ones business. I’m getting out there and enjoying myself. You do you girl. Proud of you!

  2. Jessie @ The Acquired Sass says:

    I can’t find the quote right now – but I think it was Meb, who said something about how the back of the pack runners who are out on the marathon course for 4,5 or 6 hours are those who garner some serious respect for him, because he’s like eating breakfast and getting a shower while they’re all still grinding it out.

    Which, I had never thought about it that way. I’m sure running those Meb paces are painful, but he’s finished in 2.5 hours, while I grind it out for another 2+ hours. I feel like reading that was such a mind shift for me.

    And like you said, a mile is a mile no matter how long it takes you.

  3. sevogel2 says:

    Amen to this! 🙂 (Your post originally caught my attention because your 5k PR is 10 seconds faster than mine haha.) Cheers to all of us at the back of the pack — I always like to say I get my money’s worth in races by being out there on the course the longest ^_^

  4. Jennifer @ Dashing in Style says:

    Amen, sister! I agree with this 1,000%. When I first started running, I actually had no idea I was running a slow pace. I was super proud of myself for just running without stopping! And then when I started becoming friends with other runners and started reading running blogs and articles, I realized that I was a lot slower than most people and started feeling really down on myself. But I put a stop to that for all the reasons you say. No one would look down at another runner’s paces, so why do that to ourselves?

    • Ciara says:

      Exactly! I didn’t know I was running slow paced either. I just couldn’t believe I was actually running. I should keep that mentality. I like that. Just so happy I’m actually running. Don’t care about my pace.

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