Definition of a Runner

I always have and will continue to call myself a runner but sometimes I grapple with what being a “runner” truly means.  When I think of a runner I think of elite runners….you know the type that run 50+ miles a week, have qualified for Boston, the women who race in the short shorts and sports bras with their rock hard stomachs and who run a mile split I could only hope to run.  I think of the women who grace the cover of Runner’s World every month.  But that’s not what the average runner is and it’s certainly not the kind of runner I am.

My training plan has slowly been increasing the mileage and last week my body was truly feeling it. My legs were heavy and sore and each run seemed to take a huge amount of effort.  My week got switched around a bit and by Friday I knew my long run wasn’t happening like I’d planned.  Rather than increasing my mileage for the week I knew I needed to just take it easy and cut my mileage back.

As I headed out for an easy 4 mile run Saturday morning I got thinking about my total mileage for the week.  I’d end up around 18 miles rather than the 22 miles I had planned.  I found myself thinking about how “real runners” get in 40, 50 or even 70 miles a week.  I couldn’t help but think that they’d scoff at my measly 18 miles.

A few miles into my run my hips started aching and my patella started hurting and my body reminded me of why I only run 20 miles a week.  Back when I tried to run 40 and 50 miles a week my body would break down.  I’d constantly be injured or sick and it made training for my first marathon a challenge.  In the months before race day I spent more time in PT then out on the pavement running.  After I ran the NYC Marathon I immersed myself in yoga and found a happy, healthy balance with my running.  While I was training for the NYC marathon I used to think of myself as a “real runner” and was so proud of the challenge I’d taken on.  Looking back on it I was actually less of a runner then than I am now.

A real runner is a runner who is healthy, motivated and excited to be out running even if it’s hard and it sometimes hurts.  A real runner respects their body and understands their limitations.  For me that means running smarter not harder.  Shorter runs with lots of yoga keeps my body balanced and happy so I can keep running steady mileage year round rather than just during a training cycle.

Definition of a Runner

I couldn’t help but feel bad that I was comparing my running to an elite runner.  It’s just not the same, it’s like comparing apples and oranges!  Regardless of my mileage, or how many races I’ve run, or how fast my pace is I am a runner and so are all of the other runners out there crossing the finish line of their local 5k, 10k, half-marathon or marathon.   In fact, I looked up the definition of a runner and yes, I’m officially a runner.   And it’s likely you are too.

Next time you hear someone say “I’m not a runner.”  Remind them that every time they lace up their shoes and hit the pavement, they are running and are officially a runner.


Are you a runner?  What is your definition of a runneR?


16 thoughts on “Definition of a Runner

  1. cpalentri says:

    I don’t know why anyone has to be called anything other than their name, “mom”, or sometimes “honey”. Why do we all have to have a label. I have been running for over 40 years (I was pretty fast once upon a time), doing triathlons for over thirty and have just started open water swimming and mountain biking ten years ago. Do I call myself a “runner”, “triathlete”, “swimmer” or “mountain biker”? No. Why would I? What difference does it make. It’s all stuff I DO-not who I am at all.


    • liverunloveyoga says:

      I can understand and appreciate your approach. I feel that for me personally running has helped define who I am and the life I’ve created, so for me it’s very much a part of who I am and also what I do. I love calling myself a runner and a yogi and a skier and all the other things I am, they are part of me and my journey.


      • cheryl says:

        In my profession we like to use person first-
        It’s so much more friendly when working with children with special needs. I guess I don’t like lables because I have seen them misused and mis-“said” over the years.
        We don’t say “Autistic Kid”- We use “child with autism”.


  2. Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog says:

    Such a great post. For a long time I never considered myself a runner because I didn’t put in the miles like the elite runners do. I’ve come to realize that doesn’t matter at all which is one of the things I absolutely love about the running community. All levels and all kinds of runners are respected and celebrated.


  3. norma says:

    excellent, refreshing post- well done. a mile is the same distance whether you are walking or running. be proud that you’re healthy enough that you can run no matter what the distance or the pace. we all go through personal and/or professional issues/challenges in life&let’s face it, most of us and not going to be national Astley to going to the Olympics


    • norma says:

      oops…darn phone… ” most of us are not going to be national athletes or going to the Olympics”. when life gets in the way, I just do what I can& then resume my fitness whether it’s yoga cycling or running when my body is mentally &physically ready.
      thanks again for the inspiring/motivational post about who a runner is…we are all runners if we want to be!


  4. Lauren says:

    I guess I’m in the opposite camp. If people ask I’ll say I like running, but I don’t usually call myself a runner. Kind of like how I’d never call myself a baker even though I love to bake. To me, “runner” just has too much of a professional connotation to it for me to use it


  5. Katie H. says:

    How about those of us who consider ourselves runners but have to take a break for one reason or another? I’ve been struggling with that recently–I’d really like to still call myself a runner!


    • Mary McManus says:

      I ran the 2009 Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner. Then took a break and returned to running shorter distances and then took another break from running focusing primarily on my yoga practice. Now I am back and all the while and especially since the Boston Marathon bombings I have discovered that once you are a member of the running community, you are always a member of the running community. And I don’t know if I will get back to actual running because I need to be gentle on my joints right now but I am out there doing a 16 min/mile pace with walking and wracking up my miles training for my first 5K in two years.


  6. Hui says:

    I’ve only just begun to take running more seriously, and I’m proud to consider myself a runner. I consider anyone who runs for a hobby a runner, I don’t think the term should be used with an elitist vibe.


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