Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Collective Runner Concerns, Part 1: When Can I Call Myself a Runner?

With a whole slew of my friends joining me in the dogged pursuit of runner-ness, I've had this post simmering in the back of my mind. I want to take this chance to say how proud I am of every single one of them - and not in a "proud coach" kind of way, but as a fellow runner. From experience, I know it’s not easy to get out of a warm and cozy bed, or give up a night out so you can get your miles in sans hangover and I think runners in general deserve a shout out for that kind of dedication.

I also want to bring up a couple things that I have seen and heard and struggled with myself in the hopes that this post will help someone, somewhere with these mental and physical hurdles. To do this, I dredged up the memories I had of learning to run and asked a couple runner friends to do the same. My friends have running careers spanning years to months, a variety of distances, and various lifestyles. The more I’ve worked on this post, the more I realized that it’s actually several posts…so, enjoy installation 1…

1) "I am not a runner"/"When can I call myself a runner?"/"I'm not a runner yet."

"If you are a runner, it doesn't matter how far or how fast. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run." - John Bingham 
The moment you put your shoes on and go for a run (please don't call it a jog), you're a runner. It's that easy. It could be a run around the block, 5 minutes on the treadmill, a 5k, a walk/run. But as soon as you achieve locomotion faster than walking, intentionally (running to catch a bus doesn't make you a runner, but runners do have a better chance of catching the bus), you are a runner.

When runners refer to themselves as a collective group it may sound a bit standoffish, but I promise you, that isn't our intent. We're just proud of ourselves. In case you weren't yet aware, runners have a bit of an ego because we spend hours a week telling ourselves "I can do it. I am awesome. That hill is toast. My legs are so strong. I've got this." Eventually, effective mantras produce a slight self-demi-god feeling. Runners gather because we like to talk to each other about running and shoes and PRs and our latest training run and our non-running friends and significant others are sick to death of hearing about it. I should also caution you that every conversation about running that lasts longer than 5 minutes also includes discussion of poop. If you can't discuss poop, hanging out with other runners may not be the best idea.

It surprises me sometimes that people are hesitant to feel that they're allowed to call themselves runners. I guess because there aren't try outs (something I went through for softball in high school...didn't make the team, btw)...I don't feel like anyone can or can't tell you that you're a runner. And really, runners like having more runners around. More people to talk to. And runners love to give advice. If you're feeling self concious - just say you're starting out. Ask a runner about when they started out and just step back and prepare for word vomit because damn do we talk.

Running is a confidence builder. Like I said above, we continually stream positive mantras in our head, so the more you run, the more confidence you will have. Own being a runner. Join us. And if you have joined us and don't feel like one of us, take this as a universal invitation to call yourself a runner and be proud. We're glad you're here.

Next fear: Am I being judged? Am I too slow?


  1. I've always been an athlete... more the basketball, softball, volleyball, and now touch football type, the I'm running after a ball type, but recently I've been running just to run. When people ask me if I'm a runner my reply is usually "well I run". Recently after saying this and then continuing to talk about running for another 15 minutes one of my coworkers replied, "uh it sounds like you ARE a runner" I should learn to embrace it!

    1. that's awesome! I think it sneaks up on people how addictive running is...and how much you want to talk about it the more you do it. Major props!

  2. I feel like when you could walk faster, it doesn't deserve to be called a run - hence a jog.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I still sometimes catch myself saying I'm not a "real runner." When I say that, what I mean is I'm not going to win any races. I'm competitive, but only with myself.

  5. Thank you for this! It's inspiring and encouraging. Also, with every tiny amount of mileage I add, I more and more quickly get over my hesitance talking about poop. Most especially after the firs time I experienced 'runner's stomach.' Oh dear goodness. I've never been so simultaneously uncomfortable and awkwardly proud of feeling like I'd reached a new level as a runner! (A runner - I said it!) :)