When can you call yourself a runner?

I’ve had a bit of a rest time from the high volume training, I needed it! A great family holiday away from work, phones, emails and running has done my head a lot of good. I’ve still got a few aches, but in general I’m doing okay. This week was back to running and I put in a reasonable 83 km.

This week I’ve seen an inspirational style picture somewhere. The simple logo, “6 minute mile or 16 minute mile, you’ve still run a mile”. 

This resonated with me a lot.  I dislike the “I’m better than you because…” type statements at the best of time. It just stops people having a go. We all start running somewhere, it’s hard. The commitment and motivation you need is easy to knock at the best of times, but before you’re “in the groove” or find the enjoyment it’s something that can stop you dead.  This blog really is in response to a story I heard from someone I know, I hope it’s a reference point that undoes some damage that some others have unthinkingly caused.

When someone can run a long way, or run fast (or both) I think it’s amazing. But when you hear some stories I can’t help but think that the struggle is the same whether you’re a top athlete or a beginner. Sure the results are different, but the effort can be much, much more.

I hope I never look down my nose at other runners, I try and remember that their battle could be much harder than mine and at the end of the day they aren’t sat at home. Being a runner is a label, I know that, and I was taught labels aren’t important. I spent a long time not really thinking of myself as a runner, I often still don’t think of myself as a runner. But I am.

Running, especially distance running. is a psychological sport. Fitness is actually relatively simple to attain. It’s often the mind that stops you. There are lots of reasons to stop and being mis-labelled or judged can be a very powerful brake. 

Think to Mo Farah’s race at the Olympics, Farah’s’s training partner Galen Rupp is a handy runner. Their preparation for the Olympics was identical, the same coach, the same programme. Their genetics are similar and their ability is nearly identical. So why when Farah kicks does it stick? It has to be belief, one that he has grown. Once labelled the best in the world, or second best in the world the you’ve got a big psychological boost, or brake depending on where you are. When you are in a place that other people comments hurt or distract you then the label can be important. It helps you get back up.

Running can be competitive, running can be therapy, running can be for health, running can be fun. Running should be fun, go look in a playground at children running just for fun. When did you last feel like that? Running means lots of things for lots of people, and all of them are as valid reasons. 

Run to be social, run to be competitive, run because you’re being chased. It doesn’t matter. If it makes you happy then don’t let someone else put the brake on! 

Often it’s our peers, or people who inspire us, who can hurt us. An overheard word about someone being derogatory about someone else can be really damaging. Remember though, those who are criticizing others must be insecure themselves. Ignore them. Don’t let them get inside your head.

My answer to the question – the moment you use running as a form of movement, you’re a runner. That first moment you choose to run 20 steps, you’re a runner. You might not feel like a runner, you might aspire to more, you might have goals, some goals may seem un-achievable but you’re a runner.

2 Replies to “When can you call yourself a runner?”

  1. So true – I started running when I was very large and one night at a dinner party I mentioned that I had run 16 kilometers that day for the first time (it had taken me about two years to get to that distance – though now I can run 25 miles) and a woman said you don’t have to lie we know someone like doesn’t run. I was so angry and emabarassed I couldn’t say anything – I now realise (with lots of more disparaging comments) that really they are just reflecting their own inadequacies. I love running – I love the feeling of freedom whilst running, the feeling afterwards that if some like me can run then someone like me can do anything.

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