Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Keepin' it Real

On Sunday, I was at the second of my four free personal training sessions at the Y, and I made an offhand remark that, in hindsight, I think was kind of dickish. It wasn't really directed at anyone other than myself, but as I thought about it later, it was insulting to a lot of runners, including myself, and also completely dishonest.

My trainer asked how my run on Saturday had gone. I replied that it had been fine except that I was still feeling the effect of being sick, but that:
"I'm going to try for five miles this Saturday. Then I'll feel like a real runner again."

The fall of 2006 is a long time ago, but not so long ago that I don't remember how cool I felt when I was doing the Couch to 5K plan and could first run five minutes without a walk break, then 10 minutes, then 15 etc. And my feeling of accomplishment at crossing the finish line of my first 5K in 2007 was probably equal to that at the end of the first marathon. I definitely felt like a real runner, whatever that even means.

It was a cool feeling the first time I ran 5 miles, and added new personal distance records after that, but I ran two full seasons of 5Ks before ever running, much less racing, any distance longer than 3.1 and I definitely thought of myself a real runner during those two years.

Sure, I'm frustrated right now that some pretty minor injuries have given me a pretty big setback. I'm looking forward to getting back to miles 5 and above. But there's no reason to be an elitist jerk about it.

I didn't mean any ill-intent by my remark and I don't think anyone was offended (and none of you would have known about it if I hadn't told you!), so I don't write this as an apology, but just because it made me think as I considered what I'd said.

So, I ask you, my readers, how far or how much did you have to run before you thought of yourself as a runner? In my case, I'd say it wasn't yet when I first started the Couch to 5K, when the one-minute intervals of running were really, really awful, but I would say it was at a point before I'd ever ran my first 5K (which was also the first time I'd run three miles).

There are probably people who would say there are right and wrong answers to these questions. Despite my stupid remark on Sunday, I'm not one of them. I think that if someone thinks of him/herself as a runner, they are one. There's no speed or mileage requirements for this club.


  1. Started running in June 2011...I wouldn't have considered myself a "runner" until after two 5Ks and getting IT band syndrome (late September 2011). I've been injury free since, but after my first running related injury I was a "runner" (some crazy right of passage thing:))

  2. This IT band thing is going around. Good luck with it -- I highly recommend the foam roller if a million other people haven't already!

  3. You might be a runner if...(I may have to do a blog post for this) have swallowed a fly while getting your sweat on (raising my hand now).

    1. Raises hand. I went on a twilight bike ride last summer and that was even worse. It seemed like every bug on the trail was hitting me in the face. My helmet should have had a mosquito net.

  4. Gosh, this post resonates with me so much. My first ever race was a 5 miler. 5 was my go-to, comfortable distance. Then eventually, I got up to half and full marathon distances. Now, coming off of injury, I just want to get back to feeling comfortable with 5 (or heck, even 3). I am taking walk breaks when I never did before. I totally do not feel like a "real runner" right now even though I am doing SOME type of running 4 times a week. We'll get there . . .

  5. Thanks Brian! I've been foam rolling and using "the stick" since that battle with the IT issues. I took about a week off and gradually got back into it (I also switched shoes and have had no issues since). I think the only thing that got me through the winter blues was having a half to train for. I wish there were more races in February! Good luck to everyone getting back into it!

  6. My husband would like to know when was the last time you did something for the first time. Ha.

    I agree. If you run one block, you can call yourself a runner.

  7. I can definitely relate. Sometimes I get really excited when people I've just met tell me that they run, but I forget that the spectrum of people who consider themselves "runners" is huge, and I end up making a comment that is, as you said, kind of dickish.