While training for my last marathon, I was chatting with a member after class about running. “YOU? run marathons,” a male member interrupted incredulously. He looked at me as if I weighed 1,000 pounds and had one leg. “I mean, you have a lot of muscle mass…” (yeah, foot already inserted, dude.)
I wasn’t offended. After all, it is HIS biased opinion of what a runner should look like that influenced his statement. I am 5’5” and weigh 130 pounds (usually). By no means am I overweight, but I am not a lithe waif of a runner either. Why does that mean I can’t run a marathon? Or shouldn’t? I never said I win marathons, or even do exceptionally well…I run marathons. Why can’t I be a runner?
So it got me to thinking… What makes a runner?
Do you have to be featured on the cover of Runner’s World? Do you have to run a certain distance in a certain amount of time? Is it body type? Competitive drive? Participation in races? Let’s look at some common considerations:
· Body Type: Head to any race and you’ll see there is no set body type for a runner. Big, tall, hefty, rail-thin, big-boned, short, small, petite, pear-shaped, apple-shaped, clydsdales…they all participate, they all run, they are all runners.
· Age: An inspiring pic of a 101-year-old man finishing a 10K has been circulating on facebook. Anyone at any age can be a runner. In fact, I’m not ever planning on running faster – just outlasting those who quit running so maybe at age 85 I’ll get to the podium. I may be the only person in my age group, but a win is a win.
· Speed: Some people think because they aren’t in the “front of the pack,” they aren’t a true runner. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If you lace up your shoes, head out the door and put one foot in front of the other at a pace that feels like a run to you…you are a runner. I’ve visited forums where arrogant sub-three-hour marathon runners complain about the slow folk who enter races, plod along and “taint” their experiences. I have some news for these fasty-pants…if the slower people weren’t in your race, you’d be the slow one and would have nothing to brag about.
· Distance: Sure, a marathon makes a runner, but so does a 5K, 10K, half marathon or mile. You don’t have to be a distance runner to be a runner. Not all bodies are made for running 13.1 miles, 26.2 miles, 50K or 100 miles. Running is running.
· Terrain: If you jump on the treadmill regularly, but never head outside – you are still a runner. You may not compete in races, but you understand the high of hitting a stride, raising your heart rate and besting your last effort .
· Attitude: You don’t have to love running to be a runner. Heck, there are days I don’t love running. But deep inside, something compels me to head out and hit the miles. Call it guilt, obsession or the satisfaction of finishing. You can have doubts, but if you come back again and again – you are a runner.
Yup. I assert that ANYONE who wants to be can and is a runner. So, go run.