“Oh, so you’re a runner?”
“No, not really. I just run here and there.”
I had some variation of that conversation years ago when I was training for my first half marathon. Not to mention that I had run a handful of 5k races by then too. However, for some reason, I still didn’t refer to myself as a “runner”.
When i used to picture a runner, I used to picture a tall girl with a fancy watch and fancy shoes (and because it’s hot all year long), wearing tiny shorts and a sports bra. Me, a runner? That’s laughable. I assumed that those people loved running all their lives and could run ten miles and still look good when they were done. They were graceful gazelles and I was an awkward sloth. Me, a runner? Never.
As a child, yes I ran but I was never the fast one in my class. In school, I ran just enough and once I was old enough opted for music classes instead of PE. In college, I ran because I was forced to but I admit that I may have faked injuries or stopped to help others in need so I could cut my run short. Basically, I hated running. Me, a runner? Get real.
When I was faced with some lovely weight gain (thanks desk job!), I took the cheap route and picked up walking and running. It became a nice way to clear my head and listen to music. However, it began to make me feel good. Now I wasn’t running around my neighborhood like Usain Bolt but I went from sloth to turtle. Slow but improving. However, I still didn’t talk about it much because I was too embarrassed to tell people that those four miles were HARD and slow. Me, a runner? Meh, not really.
That’s when I began to connect with runners on Instagram. That’s when I learned that running is hard work and it’s not a picture perfect affair. Not only is running hard, but it takes time to get better at it. Those athletes that make it look effortless spent years perfecting their ability. Running began to be transform into a necessity for me. After some awful days, running almost became cathartic for me. It was something I began to look forward to and that’s when it clicked. Running brings me joy. It doesn’t matter what I look like when I do it or how hard it may be if it makes me happy. Me, a runner? Absolutely.
Am I the fastest? No. Do I look like Shalane Flanagan? Definitely not. However, I found something that truly brings me joy so I don’t have to define myself by someone else’s definition. If you run a mile and have to take breaks, you are a runner! If you run ten miles for run, you are a runner! Just because you may not look or feel like the elites, doesn’t mean you can’t call yourself a runner. If it’s what you love to do, own it!