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:
- 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.
- 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!
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!