Monday, December 23, 2013

Left Behind

When you're one of the slowest members of the running group you train with, you try to stick to intervals. No one gets dropped when you're running laps around a track! I obediently stuck to intervals...until this past weekend.

One of the group members had semi-organised* a road-and-trail Christmas 'fun half' (*i.e., we had a rough idea of a route) - 21km or so up Rifle Range Road, a loop around Macritchie, and back down Rifle Range. Sounded fun, so I signed up.

Except. Only the fast people showed up on Saturday morning. Itsuko. Susan. Mark. Nynne. These are people with marathon PRs in the neighbourhood of 3 and a half hours. And me. I. Am. Not. A. Fast. Person. I think you can guess what happened next.

Can I just say - trying to do a long run with a group of people whose long run pace is an entire minute per km faster than yours is a terrrrrible idea.

Almost immediately, the group dropped me. Ten minutes later I spotted two of the other women in the distance and sped up a bit to catch up. Then they dropped me again. I gave up for a few minutes to take this photo and text our coach: "This was a baaaad idea."

20 minutes later I found the whole gang standing around at the end of the Rifle Range trail into Macritchie waiting for me to catch up. (I was trying to catch up, I swear. My knees are a mite annoyed at me now for sprinting every downhill and my left calf is upset with me for the uphills.) We ran a bit more with me at the (increasingly longer and longer) tail end. Then everyone stopped at the ranger station and I barely caught my breath before we were off again.

Nynne asked: 'Are you all right?'
I wanted to say, physically, yes; mentally, not so much...but I didn't have enough breath left to say much of anything.

After an hour of trying to catch up by desperate fartlek, I finally lost everyone altogether and lumbered away into the forest like a dying elephant for the benefit of the herd. I felt like a dying elephant too.

I don't blame the herd; I know it's very difficult to run slower than your natural long-run pace to wait for someone. And I felt awful for making everyone stop and start to wait for me. I'm sure real elephants have all sorts of rituals around a dying member of their herd, like covering them with leaves and stuff, but that'd just be mortifying.

In the end I wound up running a little bit more, clockwise around Macritchie, and sneaking out the Lornie Road trail exit to jump on a bus home - maybe 14km in total, I never really checked.

This isn't the first time I've been dropped, or DFL (dead _ing last) on a group run, and it's pretty depressing. I'd rather do a long run on my own than go out for what ought to be a social run and be left behind. I know the theory is that running with people who are faster helps you get better, but I think the idea is to run with people whose pace is in reach, not 'in your dreams'. And you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find people whose natural long-run pace is a middling ten-minute mile.

And what of those track sessions? I am getting faster...imperceptibly. It's just that everyone else is getting faster faster. Who knows, maybe I've reached those limits I keep trying to push. HELLO, ELEPHANT GRAVEYARD.

How do you handle getting dropped? Really, is there any way to make it less demoralising? 

Here, have some chocolate chip cookies. After my disastrous fartlek of a run I made these and took them to a friend's housewarming/ Christmas party. Mmm.  


  1. Ahahaha, I love your elephant metaphor (metaphor? No one uses that word properly and I'm probably part of the problem). But really, I know exactly how you feel. Or, rather, I would if I ever ran with people, but that hasn't happened in ages.

    I run my long runs at mid-10:00 pace - let me know if you're ever in Oregon!

    1. Ooh, yes please. I need to run with people occasionally to motivate myself (works better at the track - too much mental pressure on a long run, but I wouldn't mind a 10:00/ mile social long day I will make it to Oregon).

  2. I've been in your situation before and it's not fun. But I'd rather be left behind and do the run by myself than try to keep up and nearly kill myself or have them wait for me. Next time you need to make sure some of your similar-paced friends are there.

    1. That's the problem; I'm losing my similar-paced friends in the group! Not because they're no longer my friends, but because one moved to Houston and everybody's pace is shifting (some are getting faster than me and vice versa for others).

  3. Ooops. I know that feeling all too well! That is why I generally prefer to run on my own (and the whole schedule thing). It's ok, though, you did awesome to try to keep up when you could have (I guess) just let them go ahead completely and given up!

  4. Go run with people of similar paces. There are plenty of local running groups who runs at a more leisurely pace like Trail Running Sg, Team Fatbird, Newton Runners etc.