Thursday, August 25, 2011

Revisiting the Question - Can I Call Myself a Runner?

In July I wrote a post about whether or not I can call myself a runner.  At the time I was doing very little running other than races.  My in-between race runs were short as well as few and far between.  And I didn't particularly enjoy them.  In fact, I dreaded them so much that I talked myself out of running more times that I care to admit.  I wasn't doing much to try and change how I felt.  I accepted that I'm just not a runner.  And you know what?  I was okay with that.

Since then I've had a change of heart.  I've been running 6 days a week and I've actually been (hold onto your hats here!) enjoying it.  Almost every day I get up around 6:30 or 7:00, put on my running clothes, and head out for a short run.  I have a few different routes in the same general area and each is between 2-3 miles.  They're nice, short runs to give me a kick-start on my day.  I'm usually stiff, tired, and a little crabby when I leave (I think Brian is glad to see me go!) but as I run my muscles loosen up and the grouchiness starts to melt away.  Even though I'm only out for about 20 minutes, it's long enough to give me that exercise high and I come home much happier than when I left (for which Brian is quite thankful, I'm sure).

There are a couple of things that have helped me enjoy running more:

1. Routine - I got myself into a routine and stuck with it long enough to make it a habit.  Now if I don't run I just don't feel right.  Even if I have a class at the gym later in the day, I still go on my morning run because that's just how I start my day now.  Once work starts I'll have to get up earlier but I'm still planning on a daily run.  (I'll let you know how that goes!)

2. Distance - I've kept my runs short because, unless it's a race, I don't like long runs.  2-3 miles is not far and it's over before I know it.  I used to think that it wasn't worth working up a sweat for only 20 minutes but now I know better.  It's totally worth it.  Then if I can work out later in the day, it's like a bonus.  And if I can't work out later in the day?  At least I did something. 

3. Expectations - Although I still run with my Nike+, I haven't been pressuring myself to stick to a certain pace.  I just get out there and go, running faster or slower depending on how I'm feeling.  If I had boot camp or cycle the night before, or if it's especially hot or humid, I'm probably going to be running slower.  If I rested the day before or if the temperature is cooler, I'll be running faster.  I do what I can do and at the end when I see my average pace, I don't let a slower pace get to me.  It is what it is. 

Thanks to these changes I've made over the summer, I really do enjoy running now.  It gets me moving, clears my head, and gives me a chance to think about and plan my day ahead.  (Or when work starts again soon, a chance to blow off steam after stressful days teaching 1st graders!)  

Will my 2-3 miles a day prepare me for the 1/2 marathon I'm running in October?  Not likely.  Will I up my mileage so I'm better prepared to run the 13.1 miles?  Even less likely.  Although yes, I do like running, I don't like it THAT much.  I think a few 10Ks between now and then, along with race day adrenaline, will be enough to get me to the finish line.  I just won't expect to set any records.  But I'm okay with that.

So when I go back to my original question, "Can I call myself a runner?", I think that now I can say yes, I am a runner.  Not because I run more often.  Not because someone told me I'm a runner.  And not because I have the gnarly toenails and calluses to prove it.  No, I'm a runner because I feel like a runner and I want to be a runner.  For now, at least.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that.

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