Updated: Nov 8, 2022
Many people find themselves logging miles day in and day out, yet that elusive title of runner seems to evade them. They think they are not fast enough, don't run enough miles, or cannot be a runner if they are not competitive in their age group. I am here to tell you that you are a runner as long as you are putting your shoes on and getting out that door, whether you're run walking for a mile or completing an ultramarathon. You're still a runner if you're injured and cannot get out the door. You're a runner on the days you listen to your body and rest instead of doing that hard workout you had planned. You're a runner whether or not you hit your BQ time.
I struggle to claim my identity as a runner most often when I am pregnant. By six weeks in, morning sickness hits, and unlike many who claim that exercise makes them feel better, running only seems to multiply my nausea and exhaustion exponentially. Once the fog clears sometime around month six, trying to run or even run-walking tends to cause contractions that inevitably lead to my doctor telling me to limit stress and keep my feet up. My body feels completely foreign to me as the baby inside grows and all dreams related to my fitness and health seem nigh impossible when I get out of breath walking the dog around the block.
However, it is that longing to hit the road, my dreams of getting faster, and the siren song of a good long run that remind me, even when I cannot run, that I am a runner. When I start building up again postpartum, I test myself with a single minute. Can I run one minute pain free? And it is the absolute joy of that first minute, with the wind on my skin, the plodding of my awkward first steps after months away, the pure freedom of movement that shouts, "YES! I AM A RUNNER!" And I always will be. After a few weeks, I may have built up to a mile or two. After a few months, suddenly I am at six, eight, ten mile long runs again. There's a local 10k group run every Friday shaped like Africa, and my first goal is to simply show up at 6am and try to jog half the route. Then, every week, I work towards completing the route as my long run. Five or six months in, the run is another staple easy run, another day of embracing the running community, another day to be thankful that I can reach my feet, tie my shoes, and get moving.
Are you on an unexpected layoff? Have you only recently begun running? Are you making your third, fourth, fifth attempt at that goal time that seems out of reach? You have been a runner from the start. You are a runner right now. Embrace the name and live the journey,
"Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running." -Julie Isphording