Running (at a slow pace) my first marathon,Surf City 2010, which I finished in 4:42:26

Guest Blogger Luis Bueno

Run. Run hard. Push it. Not fast enough. Run faster. No pain no gain. No guts no glory. Boston or bust. Push it! Run fast or else!

If you have never had thoughts such as those during a marathon or half marathon, don’t fret. Those kinds of thoughts, after all, aren’t for everybody. Nor should they be.

Speed is an admirable goal, definitely one worth going all out for, but speed is a relative term – fast for some is slow for others. If you happen to fall into the slow-runner category, more power to you. Fast runners are in a class of their own but if you don’t fall into this class, it’s no reason to feel down.

Running marathons and half marathons demands quite a bit – determination, motivation, perseverance, dedication. Typically marathons don’t demand you finish in under three hours 30 minutes. Now, of course races have cutoff times but that’s typically to open up the race route for general use, not to turn away the runners in the back of the pack.

Unless your name is Hall or Keflizighi, long-distance races should be the ultimate tests of endurance and strength, both physically and mentally, not necessarily a contest you are in to win. For the most part, the finish time should be secondary. Now, if you are competitive and want to try and best your previous outstanding time, go for it. But if you want to run a marathon to say that you did it regardless of what time you come in, that’s no less admirable than gunning for a PR.

After all, a marathon is a marathon whether you run it in 2:44, 3:57 or 5:12.

That’s the beauty of running. It’s not a contest against others. Running is the toughest individual athletic challenge. It requires only that you put one foot in front of the other. It does not require the ability to shoot, throw, kick or hit a ball. Nobody is around to take pressure off you either; nobody will score for you or hit for you.

Runners run every step, no matter how effortless or painful, swift or forced, graceful or rigid. The only physical ability required to participate in running is in fact the ability to run. Move yourself forward along the course and you’re good to go. If it takes you a little bit longer to do so, so be it.

Of course, not everyone may agree that speed should not be an integral part of a marathon. The Boston Athletic Association made qualifying for the Boston Marathon substantially more difficult when it increased the race’s qualifying times in 2011. What was fast enough in 2009 and 2010 is no longer fast enough, no longer good enough.

This move threatened to splinter marathoning and at the very least make the Boston Marathon seem to be more of an elitist event than something strong and improving runners can strive for.

Every now and then, some runners or track coaches will pop off through the media, on message boards or in social media and complain about slow runners. They’ll say how horrible it is to have slow runners clogging up marathons and cheapening the sport.

Much to their chagrin, runners still get a race medal if they don’t set a new personal record, if they don’t qualify for the Boston Marathon or even – God forbid – if they take walk breaks during the race.

Now, this isn’t to say that fast runners aren’t worthy of recognition. They are. I am the first to applaud fellow San Francisco Ambassadors such as Charlie Johnston and Keith Schlottman when they relay their ridiculously fast marathon finish times, and the last to pick my jaw up off the floor in those same scenarios. I marvel at their times and am humbled to be in the same class as them and others like them within this standout group of men and women the San Francisco Marathon selected for the Ambassador program.

My times have not been that impressive, I realize. I set my PR this year with a 4:23:12 finish at the LA Marathon. I ran the 2010 San Francisco Marathon in 4:37:51. I threw in a 4:45:25 finish at the 2011 Diamond Valley Lake Marathon, the slowest of my six marathons. If I train hard and push myself to the limit and have the perfect race, I might be able to challenge for a sub-four hour marathon finish. Boston? I might go there one day to catch a Red Sox game at Fenway or to check out the Freedom Trail but that’s about it.

A marathon course is hallowed ground, and I do what I can to show it the ultimate respect. I run hard. I give it my ultimate effort, give everything I have, exhaust every last bit of energy and mental strength I have to offer, to leave my blood and my sweat and, yes, my tears on the course.

I was not blessed with speed. I do not have an abundance of fast-twitch fibers. But like other marathoners who are far away from qualifying for Boston, I have heart. I have desire. I am determined. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. Nothing will stand in my way.

And yet someone is going to diminish that and take that glory away from me because it took me well over hours to finish a marathon?