Sunday, May 22, 2011

Identity Theft?

I am a runner.

Four simple words cut into five syllables and an easily diagrammed sentence, yet so many of us are afraid to say them aloud. I've struggled with my "runner's identity" ever since I started running regularly 8 years ago. Feeling like a fraud whenever I think about myself as a runner is a constant game of mental tug of war, and I don't always come out on the winning side.

I put "runner" in italics because it's packed with meaning. I used to see it as an elusive, exclusive, and elite club of people - men and women that appreciate running in all of its forms and in all types of weather, that race regularly, that train with a team, that run a certain (read: ridiculous) number of miles a week, that subscribe to Runner's World, that follow all of the professional greats, that log all their splits, and that have climbing personal bests.

Runner's World Magazine

Part of me argues that:
-I love to run more than I hate it
-I run outside at least five days a week (whether it's downpouring, sleeting, hailing, or snowing)
-It's actually in fact harder to train alone than it is to train with a team
-I run as far as my legs allow every week
-I have a signed poster of Kara Goucher on my wall (thanks, Brother #2!)
...and that this is enough to qualify me as a runner.

Kara Goucher, who took the time to mail me a free poster
in time for Christmas signed "Always Believe"
My contrary side argues that real runners:
-Run to train for something (namely that race that I've been putting off since my half-marathon a year and a half ago)
-Squeeze in an afternoon run on strength training days
-Always run with a watch
-Rotate shoes every other day
-Schedule designated long-run and speed work days
-Can run faster than a 6 minute mile
...and that I am, at best, a hobby-jogger.

After months of conscious effort, the first voice is slowly starting to drown out the pessimistic one. People (in their top-of-the-line racing shoes and gifted marathon apparel) who make you feel like you should move back 10 rows from the starting line aren't anything but snobs.

You're a runner the second that you buy your first pair of running shoes (or dig into the depths of your closet to find and dust them off) and take your first step in them. Whether that first stride is going to propel you into a halting 1 mile jog-walk, a short cruise to get the morning paper, a 200 meter dash, or a 10 mile run, you are a runner the moment that you decide you are

So I like to run, not race. I'd rather run long and slow than short and fast. I'm not on the cross country team at school. I haven't run a marathon. I look forward to my lifting days because I don't have to run. I hate two-a-days (mainly because it's an enormous pain to do my hair twice). I get completely psyched out looking at people's shoes on race day. I am a mental mess 99% of the time. I'll never catch up to Brother #2.

So what? I'm still a runner - and eventually my self-confidence will build up enough so that when some disdainful and leggy college hotshot looks down on me, it won't rattle me at all.

1 comment:

  1. Hannaford, Hannaford, Hannaford. Real runners do not subscribe to Runner's World. Real runners do not wear watches every day.

    I still agree that the difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank, though. Time to start racing! Not because you feel like you have to, not for me, not to run a certain time, but because it is FUN! Remember how much you loved Caesar Rodney? Everyone is scared to race. You just have to do it and it gets easier and easier.