“I’m not really a runner unless I’ve qualified for Boston.” “I’m not really a runner unless I run fast.” “I’m not really a runner because I only run 3 miles at a time.”
Does any of this sound familiar to you? I’ve noticed over the years the hesitancy of runners to call themselves runners if they have not ran x distance at y pace or completed z marathon. And honestly, this self-deprecation about the accomplishment that running is drives me insane. Whenever a runner claims that they are not a “real runner,” I just want to throw my arms up and scream “yes you are! If you run, you are a runner.” So let’s think out loud today over what it means to be a real runner.
Admittedly, I’ve experienced moments of doubt about my own capability as a runner. In part, I think my desire to qualify for Boston emerged from a greater desire to prove myself as a runner.
Maybe it’s my sort of stubborn, “you can’t tell me what to do” tendencies peeking through, but I no longer feel as if I have to prove myself as a runner. And it’s not about what times I’ve ran for my PRs or how many miles I log per week that has caused this mindset shift.
If you run on a regular basis – weekly, daily, however often – then you are a runner. Don’t argue with me here. It does not matter if you are running a 6:00 min/mile or a 12:00 min/mile, if you are running two miles or twenty, or how much you “look like a runner.” If you run, you are a runner.
Many of you know that I originally was preparing to be a college professor before I opted for a career as a running coach and freelance writer. I cut my teeth on historical and philosophical texts for six years of college and grad school, a time when running morphed from exercise to a hobby to a passion. One of those texts that I read over and over and over again, until my copy was dog-eared with scribbles in the margins, remains shocking relevant to my work as a running coach: Aristotle.
I’ll skip any summary of Aristotle, because to most of us he’s a 2000+ year old dead Greek guy, and fast forward to the part that matters of you: you are what you repeatedly do. That’s one of Aristotle’s most fundamental philosophies: your intentions, decisions, and actions shape who you are.
For example, a person is generous if they know what it means to be generous, intend to be generous, and perform generous actions repeatedly.
So if you know what running is, you decide to run, you follow through with a firm resolve and go out and run, and you do this on a regular basis, then you are a runner. Period. That’s it. It’s not your shoes, PRs, body shape, or favorite race distance that make you a runner: if you run, then you are a runner.
Of course, you are always so much more than just a runner. Running does not define you. But your actions, your intentions, and your habits most certainly do define you as a runner, amongst many other characteristics and qualities.
You have nothing to prove in your running; ultimately, you should run for your health, your happiness, your sanity, your sense of accomplishment, and your competitive drive. You do not need to run marathons or a certain time in a race to verify yourself as a runner. If you run, then the verification is already there.
Did you struggle to define yourself as a runner?
What led to you call yourself a runner?
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