Running on my pace

Get Off My Pace

Athletes are wack in dozens of small, odd ways. I like to think of myself as a happy exception — I don’t have to wear my lucky shirt, or kiss the bat, or rub the Buddha’s belly, or do my stretches in a particular order every time.

But I do have a… thing… about people running on my pace.

About three times a week I go to a park near me to run 3 or 4 miles. I’m not a fast runner by any means. On a treadmill I can easily string together nine and ten minute miles, but out of doors I tend to run slower, especially if I’m on a rocky or rooted trail.

I hate running in a crowd, and I hate getting buzzed by bicyclists on a running path. But more than any other thing, I hate for a stranger to run on my pace, right next to me.

If it’s my husband or a friend I’m running with, that’s different because we’re together and we can chit-chat the whole way, which makes the miles disappear with supernatural ease. But don’t drop onto my trail and run on my pace because it makes me crazy.

I’m a bit competitive.

Last week I was running in a park, coming up a long straight-away that leads right up to the street across from yet another park. People often walk across the road from one park to the other.

And just as I made it up to the top of that stretch, I saw a woman jogging across the street toward me. I realized we were going to intersect if she dropped onto my trail. I hoped she would simply run past me in the other direction, but of course she did not. She stepped lightly onto the path about 20 feet in front of me and settled into her run, her feet falling easily into the same pattern as mine.

She is on my pace, I thought irritably, staring hard at her back.

Well she better speed it up, I decided. I have absolutely no intention of running right behind her for the next two miles.

Us “type A” people can be hard to live with, I freely admit. Even we find ourselves onerous sometimes.

Her pace remained even. She looked light and fresh, her feet hardly touching the ground. She looked like the kind of mom who only buys healthy cereal for her kids, and always remembers the fabric softener when she’s doing her family’s laundry. I bet she drives a minivan and vacuums it out herself, I thought uncharitably.

See how rude I can be when someone’s on my pace?

I felt myself accelerating. I was running 3 feet behind her, close enough to step on her shadow, which I did, with relish. Slow down or speed up, I barked mentally.

Nothing. She was happy to maintain.

So of course I did it. With a haughty sniff I slipped off the path into the grass and went around her, picking my pace up enough to stay ahead. Our footfalls were out of sync briefly, then I heard them fall back in together. She had picked up enough speed to match me. Ugh.

Drop back! I thought. Just stay on your stupid pace, which was my pace, I’m giving it to you. Let me move ahead.

Nope. If I wanted to be rid of her, I was going to have to shift into a higher gear and burn some fuel. Well, I thought. If that’s how you want it, that’s how it’s gonna be. Prepare to be humiliated, Lady On My Pace.

I cranked it, and pulled away with long, ground-eating strides. I knew I could sustain the push for at least half a mile or so, and I did. I got far enough ahead to not be able to hear her behind me, nor see her in my peripheral vision when the path turned.

And then I went back to my pace. It was mine, after all.

And things were all Partridge Family and sunshine until I heard her draw up behind me again. Looked like I was going to have a really fast running day.

I increased my lead again, and decided to force myself to hold the faster speeed to the end of my run.

After another half mile I reconsidered, and risked a glance back to see where she was. Still in sight. Damn. I walked for a moment to recover my breath, and could feel her gaining.

I broke back into a run and had probably the fastest third mile I’ve ever run. I would have run a fourth, or even walked for a cool-down, but of course I would rather sleep every night on a pile of smelly running shoes than let her pass me.

I know I am a lunatic. Tell me something I don’t know.

Image by Andrew Mason on Flickr.

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12 Responses to Get Off My Pace

  1. Jenni May 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    It would never occur to me to run. Ever. But if it did happen to come up, I would remember this post and just say no!

    I would be just like you–resenting her, stomping on her shadow with relish. She would become The Enemy, and I would eventually get so made I might cry. I’d rather eat cake.

    Thanks for the reminder that running would *never* be for me! lol

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

      I told you I’m a wretched, wretched woman. I just can’t stop the monologues in my head.

      Seriously, if you were to run Jenni, you would start out slow, but then you’d pick it right up and be awesome in a few weeks or months. Then we could run together, chatting all the while, and afterwards we could eat pastry! I like this idea.

      Thanks for dropping in and commenting. (I’m a foodie fan!!)

      • Jenni May 7, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

        I see you trying to suck me in. I know what you’re trying to do. Although the lure of chatting followed by pastries is Intriguing. =D

        Still, the whole running thing? Perhaps I could ride along and keep you company in a nifty golf cart…? lol

        • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 7, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

          Oh, honey, don’t even. You will simply have to run with me. You must! The pastries are calling us!

          Last week some seriously overweight grandpa tried to pace me on his bike. He was riding about 5 yards behind me for a while, wobbling the front tire the whole time in order to stay upright cause he was going so sloooooow. He finally passed me and I saw he weighed about 300 lbs, and was wearing long pants, long sleeves, sandals, and a fishing hat; sweating like a dog in the 90 degree temps. Thank God he was on a hybrid or he would have taco’d the tires. But he was pedaling! And that’s more that most of America can say.

          And I still found myself annoyed at him, taking up my trail.

          I will burn for this, I know I will.

  2. Lisa May 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I’m mentally scrolling back through my runs this week, making sure that wasn’t me! 🙂
    Totally relate–beautifully put. (Confession: I would’ve harbored fantasies of tripping her.)

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

      Of course it wasn’t you, Lisa. I would never be such a bad bad woman if it was you!

      Y’all are funny. I’m so glad you can relate. I totally gotta get out my “Runner Lisa vs Bad Lisa” posts and clean them up and link them for you — you will get a laugh out of how utterly ridiculous my competitive drive is.

      Thanks for reading and relating!

  3. Amy Scheer May 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    I’m telling you–you NEED these people. You always run more than you want to when you’re being, uh, “uncharitable,” as you put it.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      AMY! You are sooooo right. I always perform better with a challenge. I just finished writing a post about taking a knockout punch last night — just wait ’til you read it, you are gonna shriek. I DO work harder under pressure. I bet you do too, Miz Weightlifter Fighter Chick.

      No wonder we are boxers.

  4. Margaret Reyes Dempsey May 8, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    Ha, funny. It would have annoyed me, too, because of the distraction. I like to hide out in my head while I run, planning my next scene.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 8, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      Ooo, you’re one of those talented women who can work while running. That’s pretty nice. I’ve tried to do that before, visualize my next fight or a combo that I want to work on in the ring. But I find I tend to prefer to just veg out during a run.

      Well, unless someone arouses my nasty competitive gene!

      (Welcome home from your writer’s retreat!! Can’t wait to hear how it went!)

  5. Sine Botchen May 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    It happens all the time in cycling.. It’s good in a way since it forces you to push it in order to drop the leeches. The people who follow along behind you are called “wheel-suckers”, or I guess in your case “pace-suckers”?

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe May 12, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

      LEECHES!! PACE SUCKERS!! I. Love. That.

      I’ve never heard of that before, but it’s quite apt. Getting good miles on the Veloway these days SB? I miss your blog posts…

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