What to say to a slow runner . . .


. . . and what not to say

Let’s dive right in, shall we? First I’m going to cover some of the things I hear . . . a lot. Because the first one is one I hear all the time.

Sometimes your questions make us slow runners feel like this

What not to say to a slow runner

Speed is relative
No sh*# sherlock! Well, that’s a bit of an over-reaction, perhaps. but I hear this all the time. Do you think that we don’t already know that?


You’re faster than everyone on the couch
It’s kind of patronizing, don’t you think? Seriously,  how would you feel if someone said that to you when you whined about a bad run or race?

Have you ever tried _________ (speedwork, hills, etc.)? That’s what worked for me.
Yes, yes, and yes. Granted, not all slow runners care about pace and may or may not work to get faster. But many of us do care, and we work damn hard. Are you a coach? If you aren’t, and we didn’t specifically ask for your advice, just bite your tongue until we do.

I was slow when I began, but then I did ________ (speedwork, hills, etc.) and I got a lot faster
See above. Maybe your new friend has done all that. I did for years. And for years I seemed stuck at about the same pace. And even though I’m faster now, I’m still not fast.

I’d love to run with you sometimes
This one can really be a bit dicey. Can you really slow down that much? Do you think that your new buddy will be able to hang with you at your current pace? Are you inviting her to a group, where you’ll be running with your friends — at your usual pace?

Some runners don’t mind bringing up the rear. I know when I’m running with friends and I’m the only person running by myself, sometimes that really sucks.

I’d love to do my easy runs with you
If you are willing to run at least near the pace of the slower runner, that’s wonderful. Just don’t rub in the fact that it’s so easy for you — chances are she’s running a little faster than normal and making it clear how easy it is for you can be a bit demoralizing to the slower runner.

Oh, I’m really slow too
Seriously, this one annoys the heck out of me, and it’s another one I get all the time. Usually after I’ve said I’m slow and said what pace I run. It just shows me that you are either not listening to me or you think you’re being empathetic because I just told you what pace I ran, so you know that I’m way slower than you.

I understand that this is just a knee jerk reaction for a lot of women, but I can also tell you as a slower runner, it’s totally annoying — to me, at least. Just be honest. Own your power (which may or may not be the subject of a future post).

Right about now you’re probably thinking geez, ain’t she just the most touchy person in the world? Maybe. But I’ll bet you other slower runners get it. I tried to see if I could find some other posts on this subjects, but a quick search didn’t reveal quite what I was looking for.

I did stumble across a blog post loving on slower runners, which the blogger actually defined as a runner running an 11 mm or more. I fall quite solidly into that cateogry.

There are lots of things you can say to a slow runner to make them smile

So what can you say to a slow runner?

What are you training for?
This one just simply shows interest. Seriously, what runner doesn’t love to talk about their next race (often whether they’re prompted to or not).

How long have you been running?
This one is often a gateway to the runner’s life story — be warned!

Why did you decide to start running?
Most runners love to talk about why they started to run. It’s another question that can lead you to learn about the runner and their life. Just try to be careful of your tone — we can be sensitive (obviously!) — and some might hear this as “just why would someone like you be running anyway”?

Have you ever done _________ race?
This one is good if you know that the runner actually races. It’s another leading question that can help you bond over potentially shared experiences.

What’s your favorite race?
Again, could appear patronizing if you don’t know if the runner races, but if you know they do, then it will probably lead to other topics and you never know, again, you might learn about an awesome new race.

What’s your favorite race distance?
Follow up with why they like that particular race distance.

Where is your favorite place to run?
I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for new places to run! And your new buddy might just know some new-to-you place.

Do you prefer running on the road or on trails?
Maybe you’ll find out that you both love running on trails, and you’ll find some great new trails or trail races or groups. Maybe you are both very different, but no doubt this question will spark some interesting conversatons (and the obvious follow ups of why?).

You can see that slow or fast, there is an awful lot that all runners have in common and will discuss until the wee hours, if given the opportunity.

I hope that I’ve helped you see how some of the questions and statements meant to be kind and encouraging sometimes are not perceived that way. Again, not all runners care about pace (fast or slow), but it’s very easy to hurt someone while having the best intentions in the world.


This week I am also joining up with Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs each week for the Coaches’ Corner linkup


What “encouragement” do you hate, whether you’re fast or slow?

What do you ask new runners you’re meeting for the first time?

Do you prefer running solo or in groups?


35 thoughts on “What to say to a slow runner . . .

  1. A topic close to my heart judy, but one of the reasons I prefer to run alone! I just don’t like to hold people back and I feel even worse if they run off without me! And I really hate the ‘come on keep trying’ if my lungs weren’t busting I wouldn’t be walking!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t so much mind people running off when I know that I’m holding them back. Although that really wasn’t the point of this post (which I know you get).

      I actually do prefer to run with people. It’s just been really hard to find someone I’m well matched to — when you’re faster, there’s a larger pool of potential running buddies — although I also know much slower runners who have running buddies, too.


  2. You’ll say thats because I am not slow but none of your slow comments bother me and I’ve heard them all. It’s what runners say.

    In my opinion we place too much importance on pace and labels. Runners label themselves as slow …

    I think you run alone often not because you think you are slow but because you do walk intervals and many find that annoying.

    Running should be fun no matter the pace. And yes speed is relative. You can’t deny that to many you are fast and to many I feel slow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’ve missed the point of the post. It’s not about whether I am fast or slow, or running with someone. I bring those points in because I believe the best blog posts are personal, and that is just my personal experience — and it’s not just my experience in this one group, btw.

      No, the point of the blog is to make people think about what they say to other runners, often because they can’t think what to say, and often because they believe that they are being nice.

      I assure you I am not the only runner these statements annoy; obviously, from the response. And I think a lot of slower runners won’t/don’t speak up because they already feel as though they’re “not really runners”.

      True, some runners aren’t bothered by those sorts of statements; but many are. And there are absolutely other ways to support a runner who is slower than you — that’s the point of this post.


      1. I understand your point. You have a right to think as you do and post how you feel.

        Agreeing and disagreeing are what comments are for.

        I am saying that I don’t like labels such as saying that a runner is “slow” or “speedy.” Maybe I will post on that sometime. I am sure some will agree.


  3. Well said Judy! I do find that speed is definitely relative. I’d like to think of myself as an “average” runner but the runners I associate with are very fast so in my own circle I am probably considered on the slow side. But what people don’t know (and what I will never say), is that there are sometime limitations (and physical issues) that will never make me a fast runner and i’m okay with that. I am just glad that I’ve physically been able to do as much as I’ve done!

    I would happily run with you anytime!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just out of curiosity, why don’t you ever discuss the limitations that keep you on the slower side? Obviously, I’m not one to hold my tongue for the most part. Often because I know if I feel this way, someone else probably does, as well. And you never know who you might help by discussing it. But no worries if you don’t want to. 🙂

      Thanks for the offer to run with me, Meranda. Darlene does make a valid point about the fact that I run/walk and some people find that annoying, although OTOH some much faster people have run with the run/walker in our group who is slower than I am, who doesn’t run with me, although I’ve offered; but they haven’t run with me. Maybe it’s just me. :p Kidding, seriously, the post wasn’t meant to solicit sympathy for me, but to open people’s eyes to how their well meaning comments may not be coming across they way they think they are.


    1. It doesn’t really bother me when Darlene runs with me, and she does the same thing although not all the time). Our paces are very mismatched, so I’m usually grateful to have company.

      That said . . . when I run with slower friends I don’t do that, but it’s easy for me to run slow & she’s just naturally fast. 🙂

      I’ve seen couples running together in races where the husband does that & I always think that must be super annoying!


  4. I like this! It’s all really good advice. I’ve had people say some pretty dumb stuff to me. One guy asked why I bother running so much if I’m not going to win or get money. Lol I didn’t really know what to say. I wish everyone would heed your advice and ask more appropriate questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My Dad asked me why I race since I never win (or win money). But then, he’s almost 92 & not exactly as sharp as he once was. 🙂

      I also know that you are pretty speedy, so it’s nice to have someone on the faster side appreciate what I’m saying. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a friend who is definitely faster than me, but she’s still not super fast — although in the beginning I could run with her, but now she’s too fast.

      She’s becoming a coach with the aim of coaching slower runners. Because she understands (and she’ll be super at it). It’s something I’ve considered, too, but I suck at marketing and don’t have a big network of friends — I’ve had my own business, so believe me, I know the importance of both!


  5. I love this! We’re all different and we all run at different paces and speeds and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I”m sure I’ve committed some of those “don’ts” in the past but I’ve learned a few things over the years and now, I just want to celebrate everyone that moves. A runner is a runner is a runner. 🙂

    Also, running with friends and being in the back is one of my worst nightmares. That’s legitimately the fastest way to get me to not want to run with you. And probably the reason more people don’t join running groups.

    And those are really great questions to ask any runner! Especially if you’re a non-runner. Shows true interest. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I got caught up on faster times, but I’m OK with my times now. Mostly my knee is my #1 concern, and if going slower makes it happy, then I’m happy. I run solo because I like my pace, and my intervals.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a great though-provoking post, Judy 😉 Although I’d like to be “faster,” I am quite content with where I am. I don’t have a lot of natural athletic ability…I have done some speed work and have not really seen that it’s had much impact on my overall speed or pace. Granted, if I spent several hours a week doing speed drills, maybe I’d knock a few seconds off my 5K PR. Maybe. The thing is, I have other things that are more important to me; I don’t want to invest that kind of time and commitment into “bettering” a sport that already is already pretty darn fulfilling just as it is. I am just thankful to be a runner. Being side-lined for three months reinforced how much I love running for its own reward, regardless how “fast” or “slow” I am. My favorite runner questions are “What’s your favorite race?” and “What kind of shoes are you wearing?” (original, huh!)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I could certainly understand this post. The comment “Have you ever tried _________ (speedwork, hills, etc.)That’s what worked for me” gets to me too. I am sure I take it wrong, but dang it, I bust my ass to run as fast as I can & yes I have tried these training ideas but I still am not speedy Gonzalez thank you. Some of these comments can make me feel like I am not a real runner. Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much like eating problems, I think you get it or you don’t. OTOH, it’s quite true that there is always someone faster & always someone slower.

      But that doesn’t mean you have to say things that can be demoralizing — I realize the people saying such things truly have no idea how their “encouragement” is being taken.


  9. This is a great post and you make some solid points. Here’s the interesting thing …..I feel all of the same things you do because I consider myself as a slow runner. Yet, I am still faster than others. So when those running 9 mm complain about slowing down, it kind of offends me a bit …while at the same time, me saying that my 11+mm are slow, I’m offending those who are even slower than me. Guess we should all just not talk about pace and just be happy we’re moving!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do get that many fast people don’t think of themselves as fast, and that there is always someone slower. That’s not what the post was about.

      I used to post selfies with my time, to encourage slower runners that they are not alone, but even posting running selfies kind of got old to me. For the most part I don’t think they really inspire people, but hey, obviously I occasionally love a good selfie as much as the next person. Although I must admit I really have to remind myself to take photos much of the time!

      It doesn’t offend me when faster people complain about slowing down. Someday I’m sure I will to, and I’m sure it will aggravate me.

      Maybe I should have titled my post something else, but the truth is I am on the slower side (even if there are plenty of runners slower than me, but still, you’ll often find me at the BOTP too), and that is my experience.

      About 3 years ago I ran the RW Heartbreak Hill half. There was a runner who also ran it, who is normally pretty speedy, but she was sick that day and rather shocked at some of the stuff she found going on at the BOTP — good & bad.

      I, in fact, finished just a little bit in front of her. To her it was eye-opening . . . to me, it is my reality.

      So anyhoo, moving on. 🙂 And hoping your weather forecast is getting better? How are you doing?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rain prediction is hovering around 50 to 60% …temps will start out in the mid 50s and rise to low 60s. Hopefully it won’t be too humid. You never know what you’ll get here in Ms!! Last year this race was cancelled due to an ice storm!!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes! Definitely get this post with some great points. Like the question…What are you training for? Remember a woman shouting ‘You are an inspiration to us all…’ and me thinking ‘I’m in my 50s, not flipping 90s grrr.’ Like the couch quote, as a quote, because at least we are out there getting off our backsides. Great post, thanks. Cheered me up as getting over flu. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m just seeing this post and wow – I LOVE it and really enjoyed reading all the comments!

    You probably wouldn’t believe when I tell people about my running blog how quickly I add that I am NOT a fast runner. When you run a lot of races and spend a lot of time running, everyday people assume that you’re speedy. I’ve been most frustrated that my easy run pace starting out was at 10 minutes and in 7 years has dropped to the 11-minute range on average. But even though I’m not much faster despite all my hard work, I’m so much stronger, I’m injury-free, and I’m still able to do what I love.

    it’s hard running with people who aren’t at your pace. My fiance and I struggle with it all the time…we can only do short runs together, otherwise, he gets antsy and needs to speed up. Sometimes I just let him run ahead of me…sometimes I prefer it, sometimes I can’t stand it haha! I once tried out a running group and ended up by myself because no one there was my pace except a guy who just ran a 50-mile race the previous weekend and was hobbling around. Talk about depressing!

    More people need to learn what NOT to say! Who wants to defend their love of running just because they don’t run a 9-minute mile or whatever?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe some people really don’t mind being by themselves in a group. But to me, what’s the point? Especially when it’s not necessarily where & when you want to run?

      It can definitely be challenging when your paces are quite different too — maybe it’s a good thing my husband doesn’t run. 🙂 I’m pretty sure if he was so inclined he’d be faster than me, he can sure walk faster than me when he’s motivated.

      But you’re right, the fact that you’re able to do what you love without injury is the most important thing. I may have PR goals for certain races, but my number 1 goal is ALWAYs to finish pain free. Knock on wood, the last few years have been good in that department.


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