What It Means to Be a Runner

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What It Means to Be a Runner

When I asked my social media community to define the moment they became “runners” I expected an immediate surge of answers. Instead, I got crickets … for a few minutes. Then, a few tentative replies along the lines of, “I’ll let you know when that happens.” I was shocked; these are people I know well, who regularly pound pavement and race. A few shared moments when they felt like real runners, but for the most part, those answers were tied to racing and PRs, or to teams from their high school cross country years.

Clearly the term “runner” is subjective. What is a real runner anyway? Here are five scenarios that make a runner a runner:

YOU ARE A RUNNER … WHEN YOU SET A GOAL, WORK FOR IT AND HIT IT

For some people, being a runner only comes when there’s a competitive aspect involved. Triathlon coach Heath Dotson says he became a runner the “first time I broke 20 minutes for a 5K, after some specific training.”

That 20-minute marker might not be your measure, but the idea of setting a running-specific goal, having a plan to get there and executing that plan is a great way to realize your true nature as a runner.

Even if you don’t make your goal, the act of specific training should boost your confidence that you’re officially an athlete. After all, Dotson would still be a runner if he’d taken 35 minutes to finish his 5K.

YOU ARE A RUNNER … WHEN YOU SIMPLY ARE

Some people define themselves as runners from Day 1 … Even before competition or before  knowing their threshold heart rate. Take Steve Johnson, who says he realized he was a runner in gym class. “It was probably kindergarten or first grade. Never felt like I became a runner. Always been one, I reckon.”

Not all of us — especially those who spent our childhood and adolescence avoiding the mile run in gym class — can have that same sense of self, but simply deciding you are a runner and acting like it can get you there. (Fake it ‘til you make it!)

YOU ARE A RUNNER … WHEN YOU FIND YOUR TRIBE

Even pro cyclist Rebecca Fahringer considers herself a runner first because that’s where she first found her crew. “Junior high and high school cross country made me a runner,” she says. “Even now as a cyclist who runs, I identify strongly as a runner.” Regardless of when you start running, it’s possible to find a tribe of like-minded runners who will help clarify your identity as one. Running crews and clubs are all over. You can also organize friends who want to get into running and do a weekly trail run. That’ll go a long way toward helping you embrace the notion you are, in fact, a runner. (Starting the club really gives you bonus points!)


READ MORE > 6 SIGNS YOU LIVE FOR YOUR RUN CREW


YOU ARE A RUNNER … WHEN YOU RUN ON A DAY YOU DIDN’T REALLY WANT TO RUN

There are the days when it’s easier to tuck back under the covers — the days when you look out the window at a dark sky, or feel sleepy and overwhelmed or stressed about a big project or leaky roof — instead of pulling on your shorts and lacing up your running shoes. Those are the days you need the run the most and you know it. So, you roll out of bed and get to it. Within a few minutes, you’re feeling better. Yep, you’re a runner.

YOU ARE A RUNNER … WHEN YOU RUN

At the end of the day, that’s really all it takes.

Photo Credit: @runtothefinish


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