Inspired by Beth’s post about when she realized she was a runner (part of her May Running Blog Challenge), I wanted to write some thoughts about what makes someone a runner. I’m a firm believer in the notion that if you run, you are a runner. If you you used to run a lot and then you took a year off and you kind of want to get back into running but you haven’t yet and still call yourself a runner, you are a runner. Basically, if you feel like a runner, you are a runner, in my opinion.
I have had to come around to this way of thinking. When I first started running toward the beginning of college, I never even thought about such a thing as being a “runner”. I knew little to nothing about running, racing, and the culture that surrounds those things. I saw running as a way to stay in shape and to enjoy the weather when it was nice out. I remember the summer after my freshman year, I wanted to lose a few pounds, so I would wake up at 6am, lace up, and run around campus for a little while a few times a week. Probably never more than 1.5-2 miles and I didn’t know nor did I care how far or fast I was running.
Fast forward to the summer after my sophomore year when I started getting more into it. I won an age group award in a local 5k and my competitive drive took over. Not long after, I met a group of faster, more experienced runners, and I came to look up to them and be inspired by them. Suddenly my 25-minute 5k felt inadequate and I just wanted to get faster. I joined my school’s running club because I thought it would help me understand things like how to do workouts to get faster. Before I knew it, I was sucked into this really competitive world and somehow I learned all these ideas about what a “runner” is.
I thought anything less than 3 miles was not really even a run. I thought that if I ran slower than 10-minute pace, then I wasn’t a runner. I also thought that all these fast, lean runners would think less of me because I didn’t have visible abs…
I believe that those ideas contributed hugely to my long string of injuries since February 2013. “I have to run this many miles even if my legs are telling me no. I have to run faster. This doesn’t feel easy, but if I slow down I’ll be running 9:30s and that’s unacceptable.” Sounds dangerous, yeah?
I literally was HAPPY to get a stress fracture in February of last year because I felt like a real runner. Because people I knew who were fast in my eyes got stress fractures. A stress fracture meant I was running a lot. Ummmm.
I quit the running club after the end of this school year. I had wanted to leave earlier, but I held a board position, so I felt obligated to stay. It was not healthy for me physically or mentally. Maybe that is due to my own insecurities, but the environment of the club was such that it exacerbated them.
This morning, I went out for a run. I left later than planned and I had to be back by 8am to have time to shower and finish getting ready, so I only ran 2.5 miles. While running, I thought about how I would add on a little if I was close to 3. Then I thought about why. 2.5 miles is still a run, I am still sore from Sunday, and I had to get ready for work. And you know what? I am very happy about my 2.5 miles. I am a runner.