Running blog: why finishing your marathon is more important than your running speed

Steph Callen, from Diss and District Athletics Club. Picture: STEPH CALLEN

Steph Callen, from Diss and District Athletics Club. Picture: STEPH CALLEN - Credit: Archant

Once during a race, I spotted a spectator holding up a banner with the slogan: 'Finish lines, not finish times!' It's transformed the way I evaluate my race performances ever since.

I am not a fast long-distance runner. This sport does not come naturally to me but I do it because I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to achieve something outside of my usual comfort zone.

While years of training have honed my stamina, I've come to the conclusion that my legs simply don't want to go around as fast as others. I've also come to the conclusion that that's perfectly ok.

Being in the bottom half of most results tables doesn't make me any less of a runner. The only person I need to race against is myself, but who says I have to do that anyway? Sometimes I will stride out in the hope of a new personal best and sometimes I'll decide to ditch the running watch and take in the atmosphere of an event at a more leisurely pace.

But how many times have you crossed a finish line and the first thing anyone wants to know is your time?


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I used to prefix my answer with some sort of explanation through fear that my performance would be judged, never mind how gruelling the event was or whether the person asking me had even taken part!

My time for the London Marathon was much slower than those I knew who had previously completed the iconic race, but I was happy that I had done my best and raised a lot of money for charity in the process.

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However, the constant enquiries about how fast I had run over the proceeding days, albeit asked with good intentions, felt like my achievement was slowly being chipped away at.

Seeing that banner that day changed my mindset. If, like me, you're never going to challenge the front runners, it doesn't matter.

From running your first mile race to completing a marathon, just getting out there and staring down that finish line is the real measure of achievement.

Steph Callen lives in Diss and is a member of Diss and District Athletics Club's road running group. She enters events throughout the year.

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