The importance of going at ‘my pace’: on (half)marathons and mourning

me stretching before a morning run

Photo by Tre McKee

This time last week I was recovering from running the Obihiro half-marathon (yeah, I may have taken longer to write this than I intended). My time was 1:59:45, which is not a great time for me. But I wasn’t aiming for a personal best. I was running at ‘my pace’ – in the Japanese sense of the word.

‘My pace’ (マイペース) is one of many phrases in Japanese that have been taken almost directly from English. I say almost because the meaning is more like ‘at one’s own pace.’

(Incidentally my favourite expression of this kind is ドンマイ ‘don mai.’ A contraction of ‘don’t mind,’ which I suppose is itself a hybrid of ‘never mind’ and ‘don’t worry about it.’)

So when I say I was running at ‘my pace,’ what I mean is that I was running at the pace of the two dudes I was running with – Tre and Nariken. Or I was until a moment of confusion meant that Tre ended up behind me and Nariken with him thinking that we were behind him somewhere whilst we thought he was ahead of us somewhere.

The point is that I adjusted my pace to be Nariken’s ‘my pace.’ At least until the 17km mark when I ran off on my own.

 And that I think is a good picture of mourning.

When you run for 13.1 miles (that’s 21 kilometres if you prefer metric) you have a bit of time to think about stuff. And I was mainly thinking about my dad, and how running a half-marathon is similar to mourning his death.

The conclusion of my pondering is this:

In mourning, as in marathons, it’s important to go at ‘my pace’ (in the Japanese sense of the word).

You see, when I ran the Obihiro half-marathon I wasn’t running alone. There were others running with me. And as I work through mourning for my dad I’m not travelling alone. There are many folk travelling with me. In both cases ‘my pace’ is important.

Running with Nariken I deliberately slowed down to match his ‘my pace.’ I’m studying Japanese full-time so have the luxury of being able to train regularly. He finished his work week at 7.30am Saturday morning, which was fairly typical of his working hours. If I had tried to make him match the speed I wanted to run at, he would not have finished the race.

I think mourning is the same. Our situations are different and therefore so is the speed at which we grieve. I guess it’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway:

Mourning is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Sometimes that means slowing down so others can go at their ‘my pace.’ And sometimes it means going on ahead so they can rest.

After about 10km Nariken was complaining that his feet were hurting and encouraged me to go on ahead. I said I’d run with him – that we could slow down, which we did. We had the same conversation a few times and I always said that I’d run at his pace. But at the 17km mark he stopped. His feet hurt too much and he needed to rest. He told me to go on ahead. I hesitated because I didn’t want to leave him. But then I had a thought: maybe I had actually been making him run faster than was comfortable for him – maybe his feet hurt because I wasn’t letting him rest.

I think it was right for me to have stuck with Nariken for the first part of the half-marathon. But I also think it was wrong for me to have tried to make him stick with me for the whole thing. I was unconsciously making him try to run at a pace somewhere between his ‘my pace’ and my ‘my pace.’ This ironically meant neither of us were running at the speed that was comfortable for us.

In another move of irony, I have found it very difficult to fully process these thoughts, so I will just leave it there for now . . .

‘My pace.’

It’s why I’m happy to not rush mourning for my father and it’s why I’m OK with the fact that I didn’t get a personal best in Obihiro. After all, it was lots of fun, and there’s always next year!

me and two friends at the start of the Obihiro half marathon



One thought on “The importance of going at ‘my pace’: on (half)marathons and mourning

  1. Pingback: Running through the pain: on (half)marathons and missions | Reversed Thunder

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