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.
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.