The short answer is yes. The long answer is a sassy question back at you: I don’t know are you? Though it’s a little reminiscent of a teacher asking a student “can you”, it does bring up a good point. Do you think you are a runner?
This is something a lot of people, runners or otherwise, will struggle with and not because it’s a hard question but because we love to doubt ourselves. Well, maybe not love but we do it so much it that maybe it comes across that way. One thing is for certain…we tend to doubt our authenticity.
Am I a real runner? Am I a real writer? Am I an actual artist? A real poet? A real yogi? A real (insert a title of your choosing here)…?
At some point or another, we will question our validity, our authenticity, and what we claim to be. That’s part of life! That question is a natural one and it doesn’t have to engulf you or your thinking. We’ll focus in on running today starting with this:
No one else can validate your running but you.
This one’s on you.
Yeah, I know. That’s what makes it tough.
But here’s the deal. When I questioned myself as a runner, three things held me back from classifying myself as a runner. The first was that I couldn’t run 7 or 8 minute miles. The second was that I didn’t run over 50 miles a month or every single day. And the third was that I had not run a marathon.
Those seem like some strange margins don’t they?
I still ran 5 days a week, most of the time. I got out there regardless of how I felt. I got out there regardless of the weather. I ran through snow, ice, sub-zero temperatures, torrential rain, thunderstorms (that was an accident), 100 degree heat with 80% humidity, blistering sun, you name it I ran through it. Even when I didn’t want to.
And it was on a particularly hot day, while I burned up and as I pushed through what I thought was a measly four miles that I realized, “Oh. This is what it means to me to be a runner.”
It was at that sweaty moment that I realized my perception of a runner had to do with the dedication one puts into running…that plus the actual form of getting off the ground. You won’t run a marathon unless you’re dedicated. You won’t run 50 plus miles unless you’re dedicated. You won’t be running 7 minute miles unles you work hard for it.
That’s when I decided that a runner runs to run. It doesn’t matter what’s out there. It doesn’t matter what my diet looks like or my schedule or if it’s a holiday. I will run because I have to.
It’s a deep itch inside me that I’ll never be able to scratch. I love running. I run all the time, as much as I can, and I push myself harder each time I lace up my shoes. I want to keep getting better. I want to get faster, go farther, go longer. I want to keep feeling the freedom that running brings. I want to run.
When I had the epiphany that yes, of course I was a runner and it’s because I wholeheartedly dedicate myself to it, I felt liberated. I wasn’t held back by my perception and my doubt. And a few days later, I got a brand spanking new magazine in the mail from Runner’s World that covered this topic. But this epiphany came at a price. Suddenly, I had to be confident in my running. That was hard. But that’s a different story.
This whole story does have a purpose aside from whatever motivation you pull from the story itself. It’s purpose is to show the benefit of a little bit of introspection. If I had taken the time, pulled doubt out of the equation, and looked at my three caveats for why I couldn’t classify myself as a runner, I might have realized that it was effort driven all along. Or maybe not.
My point is: why do you think you aren’t a runner? Is it one thing? Two things? Ten?
To me, to be a runner means you love it. That doesn’t mean you love every run, but it does mean you love the act of running. I don’t think you can hate running and call yourself a runner. If you do hate running…are you sure you actually hate it? I also don’t think it’s fair to only run so you can eat junk food. Mind you, neither of the things I have said diminish you or your progress. I just don’t think they make you a “runner”.
I think you have to love running first and foremost. Second, and just as important is that you have to actually run. You can’t call yourself a runner if you aren’t consistent with it. Again, this doesn’t mean that if you take time off for an injury, or you haven’t been able to stick to your schedule for one reason or another that you aren’t a runner. It does mean, though, that you need to reevaluate your schedule.
Now, for me to classify myself (and no one else) as a runner, I have to work for it. I have to put in loads and loads of effort and prove every run that I do love it and am willing to sweat for it. But that’s just me.
So, why don’t you think you’re a runner? List a few reasons. They can be vague reasons like “I don’t look like a runner” or they can be specific like “I haven’t run a 5k in x amount of minutes”. Sit down with the list, study it. What do you find between those reasons?
There’s plenty to examine, I promise.
It might take you a long time to figure out what being a runner means to you. And that’s okay but the point is that you’re trying to uncover the source of your doubt. I think that it’s important for us as runners and people to actually search for the thing that is causing our woes. If we jump right into accepting ourselves as we are, we don’t get the opportunity to learn anything about ourselves. Having to struggle through learning why you don’t consider yourself a runner seems like a right of passage.
And I learned a lot from it. Probably most important of all those things was that I learned how much I valued commitment demonstrated through hard physical work. I learned that I like a little bit of suffering for my craft, the things I love. If I simply said, “I’m a runner because I run” without thinking twice about the underlying reason, I would never have understood what I now do.
It’s okay to doubt yourself and question your validity. In fact, you should. But don’t let it cripple you. Keep exploring yourself. And of course, keep running.
So, what do I mean when I say, “I’m a runner”? I mean I’m a runner.