As a running coach with over 10 years of experience, I’ve worked with countless athletes who get frustrated with their pace. They obsess over their split times, believing they need to be faster to consider themselves a “real runner.” But the truth is, running slowly has many underappreciated benefits that can help you become a better, healthier runner over time.
I’ve seen it firsthand – the runners who focus on consistency and gradual progress are the ones who end up in the sport. Let me walk you through why you shouldn’t be afraid to take things slow.
Going Slower Reduces Your Risk of Injury
A lot of runners get hurt because they ramp up their intensity too quickly. They try to shave seconds off their splits before their body has adapted to the stresses of running. This leads to increased impact on your joints and muscles that can cause nasty injuries like stress fractures, IT band syndrome, and more.
Trust me, I once tried to train for a marathon by suddenly increasing my mileage. I ended up with a calf strain that sidelined me for weeks. It was a tough lesson – progress needs to be slow to be sustainable.
By keeping your runs at a low intensity, you give your body ample time to adjust to the demands of running. Those adaptations – stronger bones, muscles, connective tissue – are what helps prevent injury in the future when you do pick up the pace. Be patient and let those changes happen gradually.
Slow Running Builds Your Aerobic Base
Running at slower paces primarily trains your aerobic system. This includes your heart, lungs, blood vessels, capillaries, and mitochondria (the energy factories in your cells). Developing your aerobic base is crucial because it allows your body to efficiently deliver oxygen to your working muscles.
Think of easy, slower runs as depositing money into your aerobic bank account. The bigger your savings, the more you’ll be able to withdraw – i.e. run faster – without going bankrupt. By consistently running slow, you build that wealth of aerobic fitness that lets you sustain faster paces when it counts.
I always have my marathon trainees focus on slow running for their first few months of training. It’s not glamorous, but they wouldn’t be able to complete the later speedwork sessions without that base building.
Slow Running Enhances Mental Toughness
Let’s not overlook the mental benefits of running slowly. When every run feels like a hard effort, it takes a lot of mental strength just to get out the door. But by running at an easy, enjoyable pace, you can make running feel almost meditative rather than miserable.
Additionally, running slowly teaches patience and discipline. As competitors, we want to see immediate results. But progress requires consistency over months and years. By embracing slow running, you learn to tune into your body, avoid burnout, and trust in the process.
I remember when I was injured, only able to run 12 minute miles during my rehab. It required patience I didn’t know I had. But by making peace with my slow pace, I gained mental strength that made me a better athlete – and person.
Running Slowly is More Enjoyable
Here’s a secret – when you run slower, running feels, well, easier! You’re not gasping for air or flirting with bonking. By keeping your effort level low, running can actually feel pleasant and energizing.
Contrast that to gutting out every run at a 10K race pace. You might finish feeling proud of your grit, but also drained and dreading the next run. It’s why so many runners burn out – running feels like a chore rather than a joy.
But when you embrace easy running, you can relax and have fun again. Runs become something to look forward to rather than dread. And being eager to run leads to consistency.
Personally, my favorite runs are 8-9 minute miles on rural trails, just taking in nature. They remind me why I fell in love with running in the first place – that sense of freedom.
Conclusion: Be Patient and Kind to Yourself
I hope this article helped convince you that running slowly isn’t something to be ashamed of. In fact, it offers many underappreciated benefits that can help make you a healthier, stronger runner in the long run.
The key is consistency over time. Runners who are patient, who don’t compare themselves to others, and who focus on gradual improvement – those are the ones who end up thriving.
So next time you head out for a run, leave your watch at home. Don’t worry about your pace or splits. Instead tune into how your body feels and run at a comfortable effort. Trust in the process. The speed will come later.
For now, be kind to yourself. Slow and steady truly does win the race when it comes to running. Keep putting in the miles at whatever pace feels right, and enjoy the journey.