What if I’m too slow to keep up?

Everyone’s biggest fear before joining a running club seems to be finding themselves unable to keep up with the group. This is understandable considering the potential to get left behind in an area you don’t know. The thought of the whole group having to wait for us is not nice at all so let’s get into how we can prevent this situation and put your mind at ease.

Tuesday Intervals

There is no need to keep up with anyone in these sessions as the aim is simple to get to your group’s marker in the allotted time, then get back to the start in the recovery time. If your group takes off with the other faster runners and arrives at their marker before you then, assuming you get to your marker in the allotted time, then you’ve paced that run better than they have.

If you’re struggling to get to your marker in the allotted time then you should consider targeting a marker which is closer to the start. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE THE FIRST MARKER.

At the next interval session you should aim to hit that marker for all reps before then trying to go to the marker which you failed to get to.

Thursday and Sunday Couch to 5k Plan

If you find yourself struggling to keep up with your bunch then you’ve probably chosen the wrong group to run with. 

This should never be due to lack of previous experience. If you’re attending your first club run then look at what the groups are going to do and choose a route which you know is not going to be a problem for you. All of the routes are printed out with the time and distance that group will cover so hopefully you have a little experience to draw on to help you make this decision.

If you’re struggling to run for the duration prescribed (eg. 4min jogging, 1min walking) then you should go with the slowest group which runs at a very similar pace you walk. There is no problem doing shorter jog periods and walking briskly instead, should you notice the intensity jumps too high while jogging.

Pre-Run Fatigue/Exercise Readiness

The harder factors to assess are related to your body’s readiness to exercise. An obvious example would be if you had just eaten a BIG MAC Combo before the warm up. Your stomach will not appreciate you running while it tries to digest such a heavy meal. Your body could be heavily sleep deprived due to early baby waking, a late night out, etc.

Ask yourself how you’re feeling before each run and make a call on how well you think you’re going to be able to keep up with a speed you’ve previously been able to hold for the prescribed distance.

During the Run

Listen to your breathing and check the pace either on your own GPS watch, phone or with the group leader. If the group is going too fast and you or anyone else is showing signs of discomfort then the group leader should slow the speed to that prescribed and agreed by all runners before you set off.

If you are ever dropped by the group let the Head Coach know so you can discuss the cause. If we find out that the group was running too fast and that anyone was put in an undue state of fatigue as a result then this is a situation we will do everything possible to stamp out.

If the group is going at the correct speed but you’re simply unable to keep up then tell the leader as soon as possible. They should help you find someone to change to a slower speed and if required head to the finish via a shorter route.

Thursday and Sunday Even Paced Runs

If you’re fit enough to run for the prescribed time of any given run then you just need to choose the right pace group to ensure you can talk through the first half of the run and find enough rhythm to keep up through the second half.

Everything above relates to you too. Make sure you tell the leader if you find yourself struggling to hold a conversational pace early in the run. If you notice anyone else is breathing heavily then tell them you’re thinking about dropping the pace.

Remember to discuss with the head coach if you cannot complete the route in the prescribed time so we can discuss whether it was a one off or whether you should be in a different group.

Dealing with the “Worst Case Scenario”

If this happens please don’t let it dampen your enthusiasm for running. Runners of all ability get dropped from time to time. Use the experience as motivation to get fitter and one day return to that group in a better prepared state.

Our aim is to always have a group to suit your ability. If you cannot keep up with the slowest group then we’ll start a slower one.

We need our most unfit runners because they are the people who feed our faster groups when our faster runners move to a faster group. We have members who have been by far the least fit people in the club, only to stick with it and to now find themselves mentoring slower runners that themselves.

There is far more challenge in learning to run from a state of inactivity than to progress from a fit person to a fast runner.

Top Tip – Learn from every run

The more you take notice, learn from or ideally record what you do each time you run the better you’ll be able to make a decision on which group to run with.

I hope this helps you understand that you have complete control of the workout intensity and that if you do need to slow down then there will always be someone prepared to slow down with you. Chances are they have had to ask the same of someone else in the past and will quietly be looking for a worthy reason to take it easy for the rest of the run anyway.

Does this help? Let us know if we’ve failed to cover any situation relating to an inability to keep up via the comments section below.

About the Author

Conor is the Head Coach and Founder of Cheltenham Running Club. His experience as a Strength & Conditioning Coach, Triathlete and Personal Trainer ensure members are educated on best practice in regards to training progression while also nurtured through the early stages of fitness development.

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