“Can we run together for a little longer today?” Tim asked. “When you come running up at the end of my run, say few things and speed off, I’m a little frustrated.”
Tim was running his new route at the park. A guy he met last week caught up with him.
“I can do that,” Paul said. “I wanted to find out whether you were interested in talking. You seemed pretty hesitant last week.”
“It wasn’t about you, exactly,” Tim said. “It’s pretty scary to run in public, to have everyone watching and judging. And then, when someone older passes you, that’s pretty intimidating. No offense intended.”
Paul smiled. “None taken. But what makes you think that people are judging? Are you?”
Tim shrugged. “No, not really. But everyone is better or faster or cooler than I am. I want to stay in the shadows.”
“I’ll go back to my first question from last week,” Paul said. “What are you training for? Before you argue, let me explain a bit.
“When you have a clear sense of why you are running, what you are training for, it changes your relationship to everything: to running itself, to other people, to your life. You worry less about what other people think of you and more about how people might help you.”
Tim ran silently for a bit. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Let me be really practical for a minute,” Paul said. “How fast are you running right now? Faster or slower than usual.”
Tim looked at his watch. “I have no idea,” he said finally.
“I can tell you. You are running a little slower. You can tell by the way we are able to talk. At your usual pace, you would be gasping. I’ve slowed you down a bit because good training happens at conversational pace.
“Too many people try too hard on their own when they start running. They run fast, then burn out. Because you wanted to talk to me, you adjusted your pace to mine. And my pace is a perfect speed for you to build stamina.”
Tim laughed. “I knew I was matching you, but I thought I was speeding up. But you are right. I wanted to know what you knew so I stopped worrying about what you thought of me.”
Paul smiled. “You will speed up, eventually. If we run together enough and you follow my lead. But the secret is learning to live at conversational speed.”
“That sounds like it’s about more than running,” Tim said.
Paul smiled. “That’s enough slowness for me. See you Wednesday.”