Do you consider yourself a runner? Before you answer, take a moment to think. Do you enjoy the physical action of running? Do you define yourself as a runner to friends, on your Facebook profile or through subscriptions to Runner’s World? Do you frequently sign up for 5Ks, 10Ks, 10-milers, half-marathons or marathons? Back to the original question, do you consider yourself a runner?
This simple question is deceivingly complex since the answer must take into account many factors that influence the final verdict. Technically speaking, a runner is someone who runs but the problem with that is that anyone who has ever run knows there is more to it. Anyone who runs, or has run, is a runner as much as anyone who has ever gone for a swim is a swimmer. Does it make you a runner if you run, not walk, after your dog? If you ran track in high school, does that make you a runner? It can be hard to define…
Ultimately, the only way to know if you are a runner is if you, and only you, can honestly say that you are. No one else can tell you if you are since to be a runner is to be a certain kind of special. If you derive pleasure from running and you look forward to it when you are not, you are a runner. No one can tell you how running makes you feel. Sure a coach can make you run or you know you are good at it so perhaps you compete in it but it all comes down to your enjoyment.
So, do you consider yourself a runner? Do you find yourself wishing for the freedom of the open road as you read this? Do you wish that you, like Forrest Gump, could just put on your sneakers and start running? Do you crave that power of weaving in and around others as they walk the city streets that you are too fast for? If you can say yes to any of these questions, you are a runner.
As for me, it took over 28 years to know for sure but, as of yesterday, I am officially a runner. Anyone who knows me personally might find this statement a tad confusing but I only speak the truth (Moulin Rouge reference intended). Friends might be confused because I have run a few 5ks, 10Ks, three half-marathons and, as of last fall, a full marathon but I wouldn’t have called myself a true runner until yesterday.
It was yesterday, only the second time in months that I went for a run, that I realized that I actually enjoyed running. Normally when I run, I am training for a race that I only sign up for as a force-myself-to-exercise mechanism but that is not currently the case. Yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the weather in Boston was nice and I found myself wanting to run. I found myself wanting to strap on sneakers and just run. No need to use MapMyRun to set a distance or carry Gu; I just needed the open road.
While running I immediately expected to lose that initial momentum, and definitely the will power to continue since the fate of a race didn’t depend on it, but I didn’t. If anything, I found myself opening up my stride and running faster (harder, longer). No headphones, no destination or specific direction; just unadulterated running. I call running this kind of “running naked” since it is literally just me, a road and my thoughts. No distractions, no specific purpose but just time with yourself. I highly encourage any and all people who run to try it since in the crazy, technology-obsessed life we all lead, a little alone time is a wonderful thing.
Now, a day later, I began to fully realize that because I can enjoy running and can potentially even crave it, I can consider myself a runner. Completing the Richmond Anthem Marathon, which was grueling and pure pain, did not make me a runner, nor did all the training that led up to it. As Yoda would say, if you run for joy, a runner you are. The problem is, now that I want to run I find myself wanting to sign up for a race but I’m afraid that by doing so I’ll lose the joy I’ve just discovered. I might just have to go for a run and mull it over and hey, it is nice outside again and the finish line is where ever I want it to be…