To be a runner, you must run. That’s it.
There are no speed requirements. There is no minimum distance or frequency. There is no specified body type or age or race or gender. You can run inside or out. You can enter organized races or not. You can run with others or alone, in fancy running tights or a pair of old shorts with a hole in the crotch.
It’s the running that makes you a runner.
I say this with conviction because it’s the truth. But I’m also someone who won’t join my roommate for a morning run because I am significantly slower than she is, I’ll need to walk six minutes in, and I am certain my pace will hold her back so much that she’ll regret ever inviting me to run and things will get awkward between us and she’ll inevitably have to find a new place to live.
These thoughts are absurd, of course. Raise your hand if you can relate.
For my fellow slow-goers, allow me to introduce you to the Slow as S*#t Running group.
The Slow as S*#t Running Group, or SAS, is a place to let your slow-paced pride shine. It’s a weekly opportunity to run, jog or walk at whatever darn speed you see fit, along with other runners and joggers and walkers who are moving along at whatever darn pace they see fit.
SAS was started in 2019 by friends Kelly Whetstone and Tracey St. John, both of Scarborough. The two were getting back into running and looking for a group to join in the area.
“I belonged to an amazing group when I lived in northern Virginia, and we had talked about how it would be great to join a group here,” Whetstone said. “However all of the groups seemed to be in Portland and seemed to cater to faster runners.”
Whetstone and St. John didn’t identify with fast.
“There was a running joke, no pun intended, that we were ‘slow as shit,’” Whetstone said. “We had talked to a few other women who had said the same thing, they wanted to join a running group but felt they were too slow. SAS started as just a few of us slow moms meeting on the Eastern Trail on Sundays to run, but then the word got out and people would bring friends.”
They created a Facebook page (facebook.com/slowasshitrunning) and Instagram account (instagram.com/s.a.s.running/) and opened the group up to anyone who wanted to join. “We wanted a group that welcomed everyone, from marathoners to people lacing up for the first time,” Whetstone said.
The group meets every Sunday at 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot off Pine Point Road in Scarborough to run a 5-mile out-and-back route on the scenic Eastern Trail. It’s a delightful stretch of multi-use trail through the Scarborough Marsh, where birders, bikers, and walkers convene to enjoy the flat, packed-gravel path, and the early sun reflecting on the tidal marsh waters. Runners are likely to spot great egrets standing watch over the marsh grass or a solitary snapping turtle waiting for a break in foot traffic to cross to the other side of the trail.
The group sets off together, but everyone soon finds their own pace. Some maintain a steady jog, others do a run-walk. Some do the whole five miles, others turn around sooner. The point is to go as fast or far as you want.
“While most of our members are middle-aged moms, we are open to everyone. We’ve had husbands and kids join us, too,” Whetstone said. “Even if you just want to walk a mile, this group is for you.”
SAS is also appreciative of the Eastern Trail and having access to such a wonderful place to run. Whetstone is a trustee of the Eastern Trail Alliance, the nonprofit that builds, maintains and promotes the use of the trail.
St. John and her husband, Victor, own MEND Health and Wellness of Maine, on Route 1 in Scarborough. They not only help support the SAS Running group – funding the Slow as S*#t Running group T-shirts, for example – but are also behind the Autumn ‘n’ Ale 10K, which benefits the Eastern Trail. (This year the race takes place on Saturday, Oct. 16, starting and ending at the American Legion Post 76 on Libby Road in Scarborough. Registration opens soon, check easterntrail.org for more information.)
Group runs continue weekly into the fall. Most take place on the Eastern Trail, but occasionally move to another location. To stay apprised of what’s happening with SAS, follow them on Facebook.
And remember, whether you run as fast as hell or as slow as s*#t, you’re awesome.
Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.