"The downhill feels almost like cheating, doesn't it?"
It was a 90-degree day in July, and my marathon training group was struggling. The woman matching pace with me was supposed to be on a run-walk program, but on that Tuesday, we were all on a run-walk program.
"Yeah," I wheezed, letting gravity take over and allowing myself to speed a little down the hill.
Running in a group is all about letting go. "Find Your Happy Pace," say the shirts from Garmin, and I tend to agree with that. If your friend can't match your pace, you will do more harm than good slowing yourself down. Just go. Run at your pace. Celebrate with your friend when she crosses the finish line.
It's a philosophy I always followed with my running friends - which is why I was always the last to complete a training run. But none of those friends are training for a fall race - which is why I joined a group to train for the Columbus Half Marathon.
The group meets at my neighborhood running shop and provides pace leaders to run as fast (or as slow) as you need to keep up with your training. When I run with my pace group, I've been finishing near the middle of the pack - the first time I've ever been faster than anyone I was running with.
I've been doing this for nine years. This is the first year I've attempted to improve my speed, and I'm surprised by how difficult it is. My body settles into the comfortable motions of running a 12-minute mile, and when I gently suggest that perhaps we go for 11 minutes today, oh, the complaining that ensues!
But that day, on a surprisingly hilly suburban street, I found after a few minutes of chat with my new friend that I was pulling ahead.
"I can't keep up with this pace," she told me as she dropped back and started to walk. "I'll get there one day."
I half-turned my head and called back to her, "Hey, I'm not at the pace I want to be either! I keep telling myself the same thing! I'll get there."
It's true for my workout, and as I kept chugging down the hill, I realized that it was probably true of my life too.
I'm not quite where I want to be.
But if I keep running, eventually I'll get there.