How do you know you're a runner? It's a natural ability that everyone with two legs possesses, yet there are people out there that proclaim, “I could never run” or “I can't run a mile.” And then there are people who look at you with astonishment when you tell them you ran a 5k last weekend. But when can you officially refer to yourself as a “runner” and not just someone who runs?
When you can run 3.1 miles in under 25 minutes? When you can say “fartlek” without smirking? Or maybe when you average 20 miles a week and oscillate between two or more pairs of running shoes. John Bingham says, “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. 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.”
Personally, I'm hesitant to call someone a runner if all they do is put tennis shoes on and go around the block once a week or twice a month. To me, it's waking up in the morning, drinking a sports drink before 7:00 AM, and putting yourself outside (or inside on a treadmill) to feel your legs moving, your arms swinging, and your lungs working that makes you a runner. It's the longing you feel inside when you see someone else running, or when you can't run because you're injured that makes you a runner.
Furthermore, how do you know when you've crossed that unwritten, unspoken line between novice runner and experienced runner? Is it the number of blisters you've had? Of black toenails? Perhaps the number of missing toenails? Or is it the distance you've run. Do beginners stick with 5ks and 10ks with an occasional half marathon, while more advanced runners race the 26.2 and beyond?
Or does one cross that line between novice and experienced when they achieve a certain PR for a 5k, or can run a mile in under 6 minutes? I would think the ability to run a marathon would make you an advanced runner. But the race is the culmination of months and months of practice, hard work, dedication, and endurance training. The training leading up to a marathon makes you the better runner, not the race itself.
Again, John Binham, sums it up well by saying:
I AM A RUNNER because my runs have names. I do tempo runs and threshold runs and fartlek runs. I do long, slow runs and track workouts. My runs are defined, even if my abs are not.
I AM A RUNNER because I know what effort feels like, and I embrace it. I know when I'm pushing the limits of my comfort and why I'm doing it. I know that heavy breathing and an accelerated heart rate--things I once avoided--are necessary if I want to be a better runner.
I AM A RUNNER because I value and respect my body. It will whisper to me when I've done too much. And if I choose to listen to that whisper, my body won't have to scream in pain later on.
I AM A RUNNER because I am willing to lay it all on the line. I know that every finish line has the potential to lift my spirits to new highs or devastate me, yet I line up anyway.
I AM A RUNNER because I know that despite my best efforts, I will always want more from myself. I will always want to know my limits so that I can exceed them.
I AM A RUNNER because I run. Not because I run fast. Not because I run far.
I AM A RUNNER because I say I am. And no one can tell me I'm not.
What makes you a runner?