I Worked Damn Hard to be This Average of a Runner

I’m a very average now and I’m damn proud of that. It didn’t happen overnight in fact it took about three years of getting really serious, staying dedicated and lots of determination to be this average for me. But to be fair I’ve been well and truly average for over a year now and I’m pretty proud of it. Sure I’d take being faster than average too, a lot faster would be great but that might not be in the cards for me even a hair faster than average, I would take that too. So let’s get into why I at least, celebrate getting to average.

What is average anyway?

Running is an easy sport to figure out if you are in fact slower, faster or bang on average because of timing. Really any timed sport is. In science we know that large cross-sectional data sets make for the most robust data sets. Since so many people run of all ages and it’s popular as a test of fitness we know exactly how fast average is by age group and gender. Since I am in the most popular age group I don’t even have to go searching but since you might here’s a helpful link letting you know just how average you are too. Just pick you gender, age and scroll down to 50% to see the average for your age and gender in a variety of race distances. Since this is based on race times I’m using my fastest race times (and average to a certain extent too) to compare to. That’s the other thing my race times are pretty consistent now. When I go for it I’m usually within minutes or so of my PR and when I’m not having a great day I am too. So on average now I’m pretty close to average. Plus now I’m pretty average in ALL the distances I’ve tried!

Now even if your sport’s results are driven by numbers they might not be as comparable for you. Let’s take shot putters for instance. While there are lots of casual runners (an now more triathletes) I’m not an expert but I don’t think there are a lot of recreational shot putters out there. So if you’re comparing your semi-serious shots to the average numbers I’d venture you’re comparing yourself to the professionals. Interesting fact did you know that as more people are getting into running averages are getting slower so it’s getting just a bit easier to be average! These numbers are from a few years ago.

Why just average is more than okay

Your average runner (or whatever) is still a bada$$ because they are still a runner! Even if you want to be all intense and competitive that means about half the people are behind you. For me I don’t have anything in my life that ‘should’ make me fast. Genetically I don’t think anyone in the family tree was a very fast runner or even somewhat remarkably athletic. I also don’t think there are more than a few people that even did a sport at a high-ish level. No college athletics scholarships, no international, state or even local competition winners in these genes. In my immediate family excelling or even consistently participating in a sport was a thing. The closest we all came was that one season my sister was on the track team, as the equipment manager! 

I’ve always done lots of other stuff too. Super series scholarship winning high school student, to competitive university for science, then grad school then work and lots of other hobbies. Which is to say not lots of space and time for athletic excellence. I’ve never had a coach of anything (certainly not a run coach) or devoted a huge block of time, energy or money to it. Even though I might look like a serious runner my body is naturally very flexible but I struggle to build muscle. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to get faster, I did and it worked, but there really is nothing that makes me a ‘natural born runner.’

It really doesn’t matter where you compare to average but if you think it might be fun why not go for it as long as you’re happy to celebrate progress and let go of exactly where you are. There are things I’ll always be better than average at like getting into certain yoga poses, using calculus in everyday life and driving within the confines of the law than you’re average bear but being an average runner, that’s cool with me. Of course the first time you do something average is probably out of reach but now I keep trying.

How I got this average

I’m not ashamed to say it took a lot of hard work but mostly consistently. It took running every week at least and mostly three times a week to make progress. It took training for specific events rather than just winging it and hoping for the best. What mostly helped was training with purpose. Especially doing training runs with purpose and varrying my intensity. Incorporating speed work and longs runs into my schedule made a huge difference. But so did racing and general and challenging myself specifically. 

At the heart of it though what really made the difference was that deciding that running was important to me. I don’t mean running fast specifically was important but running (and being fit) in general was important. Also that I was important enough to me to make that an important part of my life. Making space for fitness in your life is hard because it requires a certain level of prioritization, planning and self-worth to place value on taking care of yourself. Day to day that means telling people they have to wait for you to do their thing, to take time for yourself and to actually mean it. I decided it was time to be healthy, that that was an important goal for me and that I was doing it no matter what. So as I ran more often, ran further and raced and challenged myself more, wouldn’t you know it I got faster!

What will I have an average performance in next

Perhaps shot putting but probably not. For now I’m a well below average triathlete and I’m thinking seriously about trying to be a below average marathoner for the first time. I love doing triathlons so hopefully some day I’ll be average in that too time wise. I’d like to get my road cycling skills up to average, logging an average speed would be great but probably faster than I’ll ever go but I’d like to get my skills up to average. Getting used to riding on the road could go up lots of notches as could not being freaked out by how fast it can be. I can ride the hoods and technically parts of the drops the tops and most of the drops are not a skill set I have yet. But I plan to spend more time in the trainer this winter so hopefully I’ll make progress here. Plus with world of clips and cages sill eludes me. Hopefully with about a decade of practice someday I’ll have perfectly average road bikes silks too.

If you’re still working your way towards average good for you! If like me you finally got there celebrate that accomplishment too! If you’re lots faster than average that’s amazing! What in the fitness world (or otherwise) did you have to work real damn hard to be average at too?

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