When Are You Considered a Runner?
I’m not sure if other people go through the struggle of wondering if they are considered a runner or not, but I do. Of course there are different levels to being a runner, but once you start running, aren’t you a runner? I think it should be as simple as that, but in the community I don’t think it is. Let’s lay it out.
The running community is so great and supportive. For the most part it doesn’t matter what distance you run, or how fast you run, if you run you are considered a runner as far as a lot of folks in the running world are concerned. Even knowing that, through all the years of me trying to run I never said “I’m a runner!” When I ran track and cross country in high school I didn’t, even then! I think it was because I knew my first love was swimming, and I ran to make me better conditioned to swim. Maybe the thinking behind why you run is a big factor in considering if you are a runner or not. Is it how, or where you run, or what you look like?
Do I look like a runner? Some folks don’t call themselves a runner because they don’t have the classic look of a runner. Ya know the super slim, lean, 3% body fat, 8-pack abs (yes, I said eight) type body. Well those folks most of the time are elite runners. Sometimes elite runners don’t even have that exact body type either. All kinds of runners have all kinds of body types. It does get a bit exhausting to see all the top female runner Instagram accounts looking exactly like that type. I want to see more runners like me on Instagram, dammit. Where are all the curvy runners?! I know they exist. Regardless of your body type if you run, you’re a runner.
A couple years ago I remember a certain conversation with a friend of mine, he asked me what I do when I’m not working. The first thing that pops into my head was running. “I run.” He asked me how far I ran, and where. I told him I like to run 5 to 7 miles in a session. That’s my sweet spot. I love a 5 mile run, give me that any day over a 5K. 5Ks hurt! His response “oh, so, you’re like a REAL runner.” I kinda gave a chill “yeah, I guess” little laugh response. What’s a real runner? I don’t know, I guess I am. What would his response be if I said 3 miles, or 2 miles? If we’re going off distance as the determining factor here, than Usain Bolt would not be a runner. Which is laughable to even put those words together in a sentence. If you feel like you’re not running far enough, you are. You’re a runner.
The other side of this is speed. How fast you go is apparently what classifies you as a runner. Now, after such a long while I finally have numbers I’m impressed with. I love when I finish a run and look at my Strava app and see all those little achievement icons. I don’t get them every time, but when I hit a PR, I’m so happy. I’m happy getting faster. Was I a happy runner when I was running a 13.00 min/mile? Yes. I was happy to be running. But I love improving. My improvement is rooted in my body healing from being undiagnosed with Celiacs Disease for so long. So, yeah I may get a little obsessed with my running data. I was able to run a 7:29 min/mile in high school, I definitely can not run that mile today for the life of me. In the back of my head it might be a irrational goal. Who knows! Back then I didn’t consider myself a runner like I do today. If a person is running a 14:00 or 15:00 min/mile pace for a whole marathon, your damn right I consider that person a runner. I don’t care how slow or fast you are. You’re a runner.
At my last half-marathon before this post I ran the Yosemite Half-Marathon, and there was a crazy logistical nightmare with not having enough shuttles to get everyone to the starting line on time. I waited in a line with several hundred people for about a hour. While I was waiting in line I got to know my neighbors. We started to chat and we of course asked where each other was from. I live in NJ, and they were from San Francisco. The guy I was talking to was so shocked, and said “Wow, you’re definitely a serious runner if you’re traveling that far for a race.” That made me feel weird. I just like to run different half-marathons, and the Yosemite one really interested me, so I registered. Add that to the awesome location it’s in and it becomes not only about the race I’m doing, but it’s a whole trip! I just like running in different places. I also might add that for him it seemed like he was almost discrediting himself as a runner only because he drove 3 hours for the race. Where we run doesn’t make us a serious runner, or not.
This can also apply to folks who might just run on pavement, or treadmills, or trails. Some people like to discredit those that run only on treadmills, or only on pavement. Hey, if that’s your thing go for it. I don’t usually like running on a treadmill, but if that’s what you like as a runner, great! As long as you’re running, right? Finding out what works for you is what is important. Knowing what you like well, that’s powerful. Run where you want. You’re a runner.
I think I struggle with this the most. There are some weeks that I just love running, and I have to hold myself back from running too many days in a row. I know I need to recover. However, the tough days, those suck. I hate them. I hate when I am not motivated, or just not satisfied to spend my time running. Which thinking about those days I think I’ve honestly lost my mind. Run the days you don’t want to run. That’s at least what I tell myself. It usually makes me feel better, and thankful that I ran, because before I know it I didn’t run all week just because I was bratty, restless, and “didn’t want to.” I hate when I’m in this state.
So, if a person falls off and ends up not running for weeks, or months did they lose their official running card? If you fall off and just never go back to running then I think it’s safe to say you’re no longer a runner. When it is a habit, something you enjoy doing, and do it often enough to be part of your daily, or weekly routine than I’d say yeah, you’re a runner regardless of distance, location or speed.
Being a Runner on Your Terms
Frequency would be the only determining factor for me that rings true to whether I’m a runner or not. If it is part of your life then you’re a runner. On the flip side, I have a friend who gets his fill of running then just takes a break for a few weeks. He does 5Ks regularly, does the occasional half-marathon, and he recently did his first full marathon. After the marathon I asked him if he considered himself a runner. His response: “I do! But not anymore lol.” He is gonna take a break with running. He still works out, and does other sports, but then he signs up for a race he wants to do, jumps right into running again and begins training. Until then he doesn’t run. For him it’s about achieving certain goals, and milestones. Is he a runner? Sure, it’s part of his life on his terms. He runs when he wants. He has a love-hate with running, I think all runners do, and that’s just fine.
There are so many reason why someone would say they are a runner or not. Do you consider yourself to be a runner? Tell me why or why not in the comments below.