Are You a Runner?
I was having dinner with a friend the other night, wolfing down Café Rio taco salad with extra tomatoes while she told me about her existential crisis (her words, not mine). So, here it is: she writes stories but hasn’t been published yet, so she argues she’s not a writer.
It’s easy for me to see the Swiss-cheese holes in that theory. I asked her, “Do you write?” She said, “Yes, every day.” I said, “Then, you’re a writer.” DUH.
It seemed so simple to me. But for her, it was a tough sell. She had a ton of requirements for being a ‘legit’ writer. She had to be published. The publication had to be ‘traditional’ instead of self-published. She needed to get some good reviews, preferably from a famous magazine or newspaper or something. She might have visions of being interviewed on NPR.
To me, she’s a writer because she writes. Period. Simple. End of story.
But then I started thinking of running and how I felt like a total imposter when I first started running. I had the same bogus beliefs about finish-lines to cross before I could say, in more than a whisper, “I’m a runner.”
In fact, I still sometimes struggle with feeling WORTHY of the royal title of runner. It’s a title, right? You have to be able to say it with a straight face, with some swagger. I don’t always feel like I have swagger. Sometimes I feel like a total fraud. A swagger-less fraud.
Sometimes (ok all the times), when I’m out for a run, I walk and then run and then walk again. I do this when I run half-marathons and 10ks and when I cruise through my neighborhood. I have closed down races and gotten in so late the cones were picked up and we had to straight-up navigate our way to the finish line. I limp to finish lines, 34th out of 35, and I’m pretty sure I’ve rolled in dead last.
I wear the race numbers, cross the finish lines and eat the free bananas, if there are any left, but I still don’t always feel like a runner.
And you know what? That’s as wrong as my friend who writes every day and doesn’t feel like a writer. She writes. She reads about writing. She gets better and sometimes sucks and then gets better again. She is a writer because she writes.
And I’m a runner because I run. And so are you. The details, those things I need to say out loud to make it legit, those don’t make me a runner. What makes me a runner is that I run. I get out there, before the sun rises, and I run. I go to races, and I run.
I ran when I was fat, and I run now that I’m fitter. I run when I’m tired and would rather be sitting with a bag of chip, surfing the web.
I run when I’m busy and have work to do and could totally justify skipping my run for a day….which we all know so often turns into two days…and three….and then a week.
The fact is, there is no official finish line to becoming a runner. Some people run a 5k or a 10k or a half-marathon or a full-marathon or an ultra-marathon. Some people run in tights, and some people run in baggy sweats that have seen better days.
Some people wear gear. Some people go minimalist, forgetting fancy shoes or sweat-wicking performance pants. Runners come in all shapes and sizes, and just like you, don’t have to be stick-thin to be a yogi, you don’t have to be in ultra-marathon shape to be a runner.
What we have to do to feel like runners or athletes or writers or musicians or whatever else it is we want to be, is really just a combination of two things.
We have to believe it.
We have to do it.
In the words of C.S. Lewis: We are what we believe we are. That’s it. If it seems simple, it is.
Are you a runner? Well, do you run?
If you do, the answer is yes. It’s yes even if you sometimes walk. It’s yes if you finish last or even if you don’t finish every time. It’s yes no matter your pace, your schedule, your conditioning or your outfit. If you run, you’re a runner.
Celebrate every run, not just the runs that include monitors, set courses and finish lines. Celebrate getting out there, sticking with it and coming back to running after inevitable breaks.
Being a runner has only one rule, folks: run. And if you’re out there doing it, you’re killing it.
So lace up your shoes, put on whatever gear you want, get out there….and run.