Fast is a State Of Mind

For years when I was younger, I viewed myself as fast – I was point guard on my high school basketball team and remember being able to chase down almost anyone on the court to steal the ball away.

Then West Point and our basic training (aka Beast Barracks) began. On our 1st morning, we took a physical fitness test which concluded with a 2 mile run. Each morning, the 1,000 or so of my classmates would do exercises with our companies and then we’d split off into run groups based on the run times from the PT test. My ego took a hit when I learned that my run time (16:02 for 2 miles) put me in the Red Group – the slowest group of runners.

basic training

My Beast platoon! (I’m in front row – 2nd from left!)

I was no slower than I had been the previous couple of years, but for the first time in my life, I felt slow. And I remember being so envious of some of my girlfriends who could effortlessly run sub-13:00 times and wonder how they were SO fast. Running those paces seemed unfathomable to me.

Over the course of my four years at West Point and first few years as an officer in the Army, my run times improved to 15:30 and 14:30, respectively. But I still felt slow. 

In 2007, I joined the Fort Hood Army 10-miler team and for the first time, did workouts like intervals, tempos and progression runs. Within three months, my 2 mile time went from 14:30 to 12:40 and later that year, I ran the Army 10-miler and had the fastest finish time for the females on my team. But despite those two huge things (for me), I still felt slow. I ran a 1:10:xx at the Army Ten Miler…but there were girls I knew from other teams who ran sub 70, even in the mid 60s at the same race. And so compared to them, I was slow.

10 miler

Army 10-Miler – Oct 2007

In the fall of 2011, I joined twitter and started blogging. Up until then, I was feeling pretty good about my marathon times – I had qualified for Boston during my 2nd marathon and in my small bubble, had felt fast. But all of a sudden the paces I was running for workouts was slow. I follow loads of girls who are training for the Olympic Trials, running marathon times I only dream of and/or running easy runs that are faster than my mile repeat times. And so compared to them, I am slow. 

But I try really hard these days to not compare myself to them. Because that’s the thing -> There will always be someone faster than me. Always. And I’ll never be happy or satisfied with my effort, even if I gave it 100%, because it didn’t measure up to someone else’s finish time.

BUT, there will also always be someone who is slower and is looking at me the same way I look at these faster runners.

Speed is relative. Being fast is a state of mind.

We all want to be faster. I think that’s in our nature as runners. That’s why we train for races over and over again. It’s the hope and dream we have of running a faster time, maybe qualifying for Boston or the Olympic Trials one day. And it’s great to have someone who you look up to for inspiration or encouragement about what you could possibly be like if you work hard.

But we all need to take a step back and appreciate where we are and how far we/you have come. And know that in the end, working hard, training right and giving it your all on race day really matters more than a finish time.

Have a wonderful weekend!


I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    35 thoughts on “Fast is a State Of Mind

    1. Thank you so much for this post Michele! It is exactly the type of thing I need to keep telling myself. I PR’d by 5 minutes at my last half marathon, but I didn’t meet my goal that I had trained for (and I only missed it by seconds)- so despite my PR, I was beating myself up because I wasn’t “fast enough”! Sarah at RunFarGirl just did a post similar to this about running the race your in, not someone else’s. You both are so inspirational to me, and I love reading your blog. You are real, and honest, and I appreciate all of your advice and experience stories! Great post!!

    2. I was USMA class of ’07 and I just discovered your blog! It is really inspiring to see how you improved your running over the years. When I first got to Beast, I was in the group just below the black groups and eventually improved my 2-mile time to my best in flight school doing speed intervals, tempo runs, and longer runs. I was able to run a half-marathon and train for a whole, but I’m so far from where I used to be and just had my first baby 10 weeks ago. I ran a 5K race the other day in 31 minutes and it’s hard to even imagine how I could possibly ever get back to that, but obviously you’ve seriously improved over the years and I look forward to reading through your blog and following along for motivation!

      • Hey Cherith! Thanks for commenting – I always love connecting with other grads (I would say old grads but we aren’t old…yet =) ). Congrats on the birth of your first child! So exciting!
        My biggest piece of advice in regards to speed and endurance post-baby is to look forward – not back. It’s so hard not to compare ourselves to what we once were able to do – when in reality we should be celebrating what our bodies have done – you gave birth only 10 weeks ago and are already running/racing 5ks – I think that’s pretty impressive! The speed will come back – I promise you, it does – it’s not easy and doesn’t happen overnight, but it does come back – and when it does, it’s a pretty special time =)
        Thank you for your words – if you ever have any questions about anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!!
        nycrunningmama recently posted..National Running Day + Adding Fun into TrainingMy Profile

    3. I am still floored when I hear that you and so many others that I consider SUPER fast, think they are slow runners. I do not consider myself fast at all and took a long time to accept that as long as I am trying my hardest and being realistic, I should be happy. It’s tough though when I read about people hitting times that I cant even imagine!
      Runner Girl Eats recently posted..Back at it.My Profile

    4. Well said!! As someone who, at peak training, runs in the mid-9s, I roll my eyes at those running in the 7s calling themselves slow…but I’ve had to stop calling myself slow, because so many of my friends think I’m fast! I don’t want to hurt feelings by calling myself slow and then turning around and cheering on my slower friends. Speed is really all in the mindset!

      Comparison is a thief of joy! – Theodore Roosevelt
      Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted..Vega Sport Pre-Workout EnergizerMy Profile

    5. A million times yes! Even on slow days, I know there are people who would love my times in the same way I would love your times! One of my favorite quotes is: “don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” as it reminds me that you can’t compare yourself to others.
      Cyanne (RunStretchGo) recently posted..Being honest and starting overMy Profile

    6. yes yes yes!!! This is right on, and something that so many people do not understand. I loved reading this, and I am definitely keeping this in mind right now. I am proud of what my body was able to do in my half a few weeks ago, and even though it was not the 1:13 I wanted, it was still a good race for me. Thanks for sharing, you are such a great resource!
      Tina Muir recently posted..Final Training Update for the 2014 Spring SeasonMy Profile

    7. A lot of my friends tell me I’m fast. One of my friends told me I should run Boston, and I had to tell her I didn’t think I was fast enough to qualify! Usually I run pretty slow, but I’m ok with that. I’m happy with my race times, they are good for me personally. It is hard not to compare ourselves to others though sometimes, but I’m always happy for people who are faster. Gives me something to strive for, and be inspired by! Love your constant inspiration. I think you are blazing fast!!

    8. It’s very relative, so true! Many of the runners I keep up with online are much faster than I am, yet when I talk to neighbors and other local people in my community who run some of our races, I am much faster than them. It’s definitely relative :) I think what we come across with our “online friends” is that we get exposed more to a smaller sub-sector. Runners online chatting about it and writing about running are often more passionate about the sport, therefore become better and better, whereas all of the everyday folks we meed up with in real-life, they tend to do races as bucket-list things and don’t often take it as serious as some of us do. At least that is how it sometimes seems to me :) Cheers! You are FAST!
      Christina recently posted..Summer vacation, steady state running, and shopping dealsMy Profile

    9. I don’t want to run faster – I want to continue finishing. For me it’s not about speed or time it’s about actually doing the training run or race and finishing it. I’m a slow runner, I plod along, but I’m totally ok with that. I just ran a half marathon PR of 2:25, it was hard work but I did it and am so proud of my time!

    10. Funny enough I was just thinking this same thing about YOU this week seeing your Instagram posts on your runs/ workouts and how fast you are (faster than me at least!) and thinking how I can get fast like you! :) It is all relative and important to stay within yourself, run your own race and improve on your own level… though it’s also a good goal to strive to be as fast as someone better than you! So I’ll still try to chase you, even if I never catch up, it will keep me working hard!

    11. Thank you for this post! It has really boosted my self confidence in my running times.

    12. This –> “But we all need to take a step back and appreciate where we are and how far we/you have come.” Absolutely. I’ve never been fast by any means but I think that after joining Twitter and starting to blog, my ego and competitive side started to get in the way which is not a good thing at all. We do have to take a step back and gain some perspective but comparison is such a hard thing. Love this and you!
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Friday Round-Up: What MattersMy Profile

    13. Great post.
      I wrote about this a while ago that after starting blogging, I realized how fast people were. It’s hard not to compare yourself to people but at the same point everyone’s different.
      Hollie recently posted..Life and ArticlesMy Profile

    14. I needed to hear this today, so thanks. I always feel slow, but when I say it out loud, I feel that I am judged because there is always someone slower (just like there is always someone faster). Over the years, I have tried to make myself accept the fact that my fast might be someone’s slow and vice versa. It’s a tough pill to swallow!
      Carson recently posted..Southern Running: Beating the HeatMy Profile

    15. I LOVE this!! I see your instragram posts and always think “wow, you’re so speedy!” Then I think, I used to do my long runs around 11 minutes and now I’m down to 8:45 and from 10 minutes to 7:45-8 for my short ones (in about 15 months!) I’m proud of how far I’ve come and know I need to focus on MY journey. Thanks for the reminder!
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    16. Great post! I (of course) want to be faster than I am now and have gotten much faster since I started running, but I know there is a”cap” somewhere where I won’t get any faster. In races I always have to remind myself “you’re racing against yourself and not anyone else” to keep my thoughts in check. I enjoy running and testing the limits of my body but I know I can’t compare myself to the winning female (for instance). I know when I have a good race and track workout I feel faster than I did a year ago – it’s good enough for me right now. :)

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    18. i like this post a lot. its important to always focus on yourself like you said…where you were, where you are, where you want to be and how well you are training etc. im proud of myself as of late. really have been working hard and im training for a marathon and was able to get a PR in the 10k this past weekend. I was so proud of my 45:18 (PR was only by TWO seconds) and then I saw this fast runner friend of mine post that she joined the sub 40 club for the 10k distance. immediately i felt like omg…and here i am celebrating at 45:18 but then i realized….stop that thinking christina. you are a different person a different runner etc. focus on your goals! not someone elses!
      Christina (Sisters Running the Kitchen) recently posted..Monster Cookie Energy BitesMy Profile

    19. Needed to hear this so much right now! I am progressing slowly, but still getting faster (for me…which I am a very average runner). But I would see other’s EASY run times were faster than my quickest runs! But I just keep hoping that in years to come I will eventually get around to those times. =)
      LauraMae recently posted..Hottest Day of the Year So Far in ArizonaMy Profile

    20. So true! I’m trying to qualify for Boston and, some days, feel like it’s this impossible task to accomplish. I am constantly thinking “nycrunningmama and misfit runner are so fast! How do they do it??” :) But, just like you said in your post, it’s years of work and dedication. I run my tempo runs at your recovery pace, but it’s fast for me at his point in my training. I’ll take it! Thanks for all your great posts!

    21. Amen! I always feel slow, and coming back from injury I feel even slower, even though my pace seems to have picked up a bit! I definitely need to start doing some intervals – do you have any recommendations of good interval workouts to do?
      Dianne recently posted...Operation MCOMy Profile

    22. I can definitely relate to all of it! Especially since I recently started blogging and have been introduced to the huge world of the online running community, many of whom are a whole lot faster than me. Or going to a big race in NYC and seeing SWARMS of super fast female runners and wondering, what are they doing that I’m not doing?

      Ultimately it’s a waste to think that way and also potentially dangerous if it leads you into training at a level that’s not realistic for you.

      As always I loved reading this and enjoy getting your perspective on common runner problems :)
      Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted..Weekly Training, More Speedwork, and GoalsMy Profile