Monday, July 18, 2011

Can I Call Myself a Runner?

"Hate running, love the results." - Nike t-shirt

I run, therefore I am a runner.  Right?  However, sometimes I feel that to give myself that title, it should be something I enjoy, something I do because of intrinsic reasons.  It should be a part of me.  I mean, I shop but I wouldn't call myself a shopper because I despise mall crowds and hate trying on clothes.  I ride my bike sometimes and cycle indoors but wouldn't call myself a biker or a cyclist.  I pull weeds and grow tomatoes but it's a chore so I would never call myself a gardener.  You get the point.  Let me take you back a few years so you can see how my relationship with running has evolved.

I used to hate running.  I know, hate is such a strong word but it is much kinder than words I used to use.  Just ask Brian.  Running together would not have been a good thing for our marriage.  When I started taking a boot camp class about 5 years ago I was forced to run. Okay, not forced but it was either run or be left behind.  Gradually, the more I ran in class the easier it got and the more I (dare I say it?) liked it.  Liked, not loved.  Still, I never ran on a treadmill. (Ever seen someone trip and fall off one of those things?  Well, I wasn’t going to be that person.)  I never ran on a trail, through my neighborhood, or at the park.  I didn’t even own a pair of running shoes, instead I used some ancient pair of heavy cross trainers from TJ Maxx.

4 years ago I signed up for my first race – a 10k – having never run more than 3 miles at a stretch.  I really just hoped to make it to the finish line without having to walk.  I had never trained and had no expectations.  When I finished the race in 53:01, I was exhausted but exhilarated.  I had a taste of a real race and wanted more.

A month later I ran a 5.8-mile leg of the Detroit Free Press Marathon as part of a 5-person relay team.  I did pretty well – better than I had at my first race.  That was October.  I didn’t run again until April when I foolishly decided to sign up for a half marathon the day before the race.  Again, without training, I not only finished the race without walking but also had an even better pace than the last time.  (Though the lack of training resulted in severe ITB pain – do not attempt.)

Over the next 3 years I went on to run 4 more 10ks, 2 10-milers, and 9 half marathons.  Until my recent summer races, almost every time my pace was better than the last.  I achieved a PR of 1:41:04 for a half marathon, which I was darn proud of.  Sounds like I’ve built a solid case to prove I love running, right?  Well . . . not exactly. 

If I really loved running, I’d be hitting the pavement at least a few times a week instead a few times a month.  Or a season.  I’d be out there rain or shine instead of having an excuse for almost every type of weather other than sunny, windless, and 60 degrees.  I’d actually train in order to improve my performance instead of just hoping that race day adrenaline will power me through the run.  And finally, my “long run” and my “short run” would be different distances instead of 4 miles each. 

But when I get my race gear out the night before the big day, pin on my number (making sure it’s straight and centered, of course), and select the perfect pre-race banana, I am excited.  When the alarm goes off in the morning I leap out of bed as if I’m about to go on a vacation.  When I get to the race I am so keyed up I can’t stand still.  I am literally jumping up and down in anticipation.  The gun goes off and I run and I run and I don’t stop until I cross that finish line.  Mostly I don’t stop because “the faster I run, the sooner I’ll be done” (my oft-used race mantra), but whatever gets me through, right?  Even if it’s not the best race and even if it’s so brutal that I think it may well be my last, the feeling of finishing is so amazing that all those negative thoughts fly out of my head and I’m walking (sometimes limping) on air.  I can’t wait until next year to run the race again.  Or until the next month when there’s another race.  I’m so pumped to run again.  And of course I don’t run again until that next race.  I have great intentions but when it comes down to it, I just don’t love running.

So what does this mean?  Can I call myself a runner when I just can’t wait for it to be over?  When the thought of running even a mile is more than I can stand?  When I run because I feel like I HAVE to do it?  When I feel like it's a chore?  Is there something I can do to like it more or is it something you either have or you don’t?  Maybe it's just a slump.  Or maybe it's a normal love/hate relationship.

Please leave a comment to share your thoughts, especially if you've experienced anything similar.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!


  1. what a great blog with much to think about for runners, non-runners and maybe-runners.

  2. I find it comforting that you question whether or not you're a runner. I cannot call myself a runner. I will tell people I run, but I can't say I'm a runner. A similar thing is I knit, and I can call myself a knitter. I don't think it has anything to do with how good I am at either one, because as soon as I knit my first finished item & decided I would knit more, I called myself a knitter (so before I was good at it).

    I think with running I can't call myself a runner until I complete a race at a good pace (not sure how I define that). I love running but am nowhere near as good at it as you are. At least if you can't call yourself a runner, you can call yourself a racer!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Well said, Kaci! It's funny - I would say YOU are a runner because of all the marathons you've done and the long runs you do to train. I guess we decide how to define ourselves and the definition isn't the same for everyone. I like the idea of being a "racer" if not a "runner." :) Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!