Friday, September 11, 2009

How do you define a runner?

I get this question all the time..."When did you become a runner?"

I took up running about three and a half years ago. And I mean really running: running several times a week, tracking my mileage, signing up for races, and reading books, articles, and magazines to learn more about training. Committing to the sport. Before that I was a part time runner - just on occasion here and there. Before that I was a gym rat. Running was for "those crazy people". What pushed me to running? Well, really two things:
  1. A rough engagement break-up (not the amazing man I'm married to now). The stress of ending a seven year relationship and engagement, moving, working and commuting in a completely different city pushed me to find a way to relieve stress. I was also traveling 90% of the time with my job and had a hard time always finding a gym at the hotels. With running I could just pick up and do it pretty much anywhere.
  2. Meeting some amazing friends on-line through another blog (believe it or not) who supported and encouraged me through signing up, training for and completing the Chicago Half Marathon - my first race EVER!
I have met up with these gals at various races and we still keep in touch, supporting each other through our running aches and pains.

But I never really know how to answer that question. When DID I become a runner? Am I a runner now? What truly defines a runner?

For the most part the running community is such an amazing, supportive, open-armed accepting group. If you run, then well, you're a runner! I have run with several groups and although I am always nervous that I won't fit in, or I'll be the slowest person there, I am never disappointed that I went. I have always been welcomed and encouraged no matter my speed. That is one of the draws that I find so appealing about running. If you go out to any race now you will see runners of all shapes, sizes, and ages and they are all cheering each other on.

Running is hard work.

Only a fellow runner can know what you are going through training for that big race. Only a runner can relate to the shin pain, knee pain, hip pain, sore muscles, fatigue, and bad run days. And only a runner can understand the amazing stress relief of a good run and your elation during those AWESOME run days when everything just clicks.

But there are those few runners who still place themselves in a special running clique. If you don't run a 7:00 mile then you are not a "runner". You are a jogger/schlogger/part-timer. I simply detest this attitude and find it both elitist and insulting to all the amazing people out there who are middle to back-of-the-packers like me. Do I not throw up my dinner during tempo runs? Do I not hobble around for days after a hard race? Do my knees not scream at me after upping my mileage? Are my clothes not drenched in sweat from the long run?

ALL runners have to start somewhere. My friend Melissa just started running this year. I love reading and hearing about her training and all the great strides she's making. It reminds me sooo much of myself three years ago: the struggles to fit in a run, the struggles of "can I do this?", the struggles with finding pace, the struggles to define myself as a runner. She just amazes me everyday with her training commitment and "can do" attitude. To me she is MORE of a runner because this is so new and such hard work for her - yet she keeps coming back for more.

I guess the point of this post is how do you define a runner and when did you define yourself as a runner?

I think after that huge endorphin rush of my first race I knew I was hooked. I knew I was a runner. The previously non-existent athlete in me came out and said "Hey! This is something we can do!" For me, I will always be a runner at heart - even if hobbled to schlog on my knee pain no more than twice a week. I will find my way out to the pavement.

Today I LOVE: the running community!


Anne said...

I especially like this: "For the most part the running community is such an amazing, supportive, open-armed accepting group. If you run, then well, you're a runner!"

So true. I ran alone for so many years and had no idea such a welcoming community existed! So much easier to deal with the downs when you've got a group to cheer with you through the highs.

jenna is awkward said...

awesome post - i needed to read this tonight. thank you

Jo Lynn said...

Well, then I am a super part-time-schlogger! I LOVE 10 minute mile pace. Feels good to me. ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, I am in tears! JJ has been my running role model ever since I started this year. I could not even run for 30 full seconds in January, and now I'm training for a half marathon in November :)

I have struggled with the definition of a runner too. Does it count if you've only run a 5k or a 10k or a marathon? But I like how you define it, if you run, you are a runner :)

You made my day!!

The Happy Runner said...

Great post! Those elitists bug me, too. We run, we're runners!

Have a great weekend.

Marlene said...

Great post and sooo true about the running community. If it weren't for my virtual and real life communities, I can't see myself where I am today. I don't know if I ever would have progressed beyond 30 minute jogs on the treadmill!

I think I finally felt like a runner when I completed my first race - the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in '07. What a feeling! I had no idea.

René said...

There are so many types of runners with different paces and styles, competitive and non-competitive, and we all have one thing in common: a love of running.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome post! I named my blog Run Sarah because I didn't, and still don't, feel like a true runner! I feel like I am too slow & haven't done enough races...but I am still a woman who runs :)

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

"Do I not hobble around for days after a hard race? Do my knees not scream at me after upping my mileage?" Well stated!! Amazing post. I became a "Runner" when running was not only a part of my life but a part of me. My passion, my love, and my way to find ME. Thanks for this post!!

Southbay Girl said...

I love you for writing this and for not being that 7 min miler!! Thank you! I especially needed to read this today after I had the WORST run I have ever had! I was seriously questioning if running is for me and if I can classify myself as a "runner" since today I was more like a slow jogger!!!

Thank you!!

Melissa said...

This post makes me want to go for a run RIGHT NOW!!!

I love running clubs, races, and events. No matter your speed or experience, it is such an encouraging atmosphere and everyone wants to see you acomplish your running goals!!

Anonymous said...

My pace has varied over the years, as have my running goals. But one thing has never changed: When things get tough, all I want to do is go for a run. That was just as true after high-school breakups as it was when my husband left for his first Persian Gulf deployment, spurring me to train for my own first marathon. For me, personally, the fact that I'm unable to completely process my feelings until I've gone on a good run makes me a runner, no matter what my pace.

lindsay said...

i love this post. i am definitely like you - if you run, you are a runner! i also dislike people who think a certain pace or weekly mileage defines whether or not you are a runner. not true!! i love reading blogs of runners of all levels.

PunkRockRunner said...

Last time I check, my 4:50 Boston Finishers Medal is the same one they gave to the 3:10 finishers.

I look at it this way, for the money these races cost, I'm enjoying the course as long as possible and getting my money's worth. The super fast runners are doing it wrong ;-)

Great post!


Middalia Wayman said...

As someone who never ever did anything athletic before running. It was really hard for me to call or consider myself a runner. People would ask..Are you a runner? And I would say 'I run or at least I try to" Even now it is hard for me to think of myself as a runner but I am. I love running, it is part of who I am. And after my first 5K, I knew I wanted to keep racing and running, I like you was hooked. Great post!!

Anonymous said...

I am slow and have only been running for a year, but I consider myself a runner. It took a while for me to do that, and at first I used to always say "I am going out for a run, err jog". As though it actually mattered.

I feel the pains, I run when it is cold and pouring rain, I go to bed early on Fridays for long runs on Saturdays. I am a runner.

SDrunner said...

What a great post. It should not be that difficult to define a runner, if you get out there and move (no matter the pace), you're a runner in my book. Keep it up!