The other day I received a survey that focused on the question: “How would you define a runner?” I answered simply, “Someone who runs.”
The survey went on to ask things like:
“How often does a runner run?”
“What does a runner look like?”
“Why do runners run?”
I have been running for almost 4 years. When I first started running I did not consider myself to be a runner. Yes, I ran, but I was afraid to admit it. I was afraid to run outside where people could see me. I ran in my basement on a treadmill for a month before I was tricked into running a lap around the gym.
I ran a handful of races, and then I decided to run a half marathon. I was running between 20-25 miles a week for 12 weeks and my world revolved around my running. My husband started introducing me like this: “This is my wife-she is a runner.” He would stop people wearing a race jacket and start random conversations and then let them know I was a runner, too.
People I had known either virtually or in real life for years suddenly started running. Conversations with people who followed me on social media always turned to the subject of running and races.
“What are you training for now?”
“Are you doing another marathon?” (People sometimes confuse the half marathon and marathon thing-to them it’s not a big difference.)
When I compared myself to people who I considered to be real runners, I did not see myself as a runner. Real runners were fast, running looked effortless, they ran many more miles than me, they were very lean and/or small, and they had been running for years-at least 10 years.
Assume the Identity
I recently read The Runner’s Brain by Dr. Jeff Brown and one of the first brain exercises Jeff recommends is to “assume a runner’s identity.” Think of yourself as a runner, read about running, buy running clothes, shoes, gear, and call yourself a runner. This is important in anything you choose to work at in order to improve.
Assume the identity.
I have heard this time and time again in relation to children seeing themselves as readers and writers. Adults can help children assume an identity as a reader and as a writer, as a musician, a scientist, a mathematician, a dancer, whatever it is that ignites the passion of that child, and it makes a huge difference in learning outcomes.
It took a long time for me to admit I am a runner. Even thought I had assumed the identity, I wasn’t 100% convinced. Until now.
It matters when others acknowledge your running life. It feels like looking in the mirror, only better.
I Am a Runner
Here’s what helped me cross that line from seeing myself as a “faux-“runner to a runner:
My trainer flat out told me I was super focused on running, and that he thought it was a good thing. It was simple, and he might not even realize how powerful it was, but it made me stop in my track and think, “Yes, I guess I am.”
I chose running over golf. Twice. Mostly because I was better prepared, physically to run than golf, but still.
During an education professional learning event in front of hundreds of people, the presenter used my running story as a positive example of developing stamina. She began by saying, “Cathy is a runner…” And I was in the room so I could not hide. She shared she was inspired by my posts on social media about my running progress. (Assuming the identity-runners like to share) and so she had decided to try running.
My colleague at the same conference asked what I was in training for next, he just assumed there would be a next. And there is. And then we chatted about some cool races. (Assuming the identity- chatting about half marathons, 25 k, 20 milers and marathons.)
And then there is the necklace I wear that regularly ignites curiosity, “I am curious-what do those numbers on your necklace mean?” (Assuming the identity- I wear a silver necklace with a 5k, 10k and 13.1 charm to commemorate some of the race distances I have competed in.)
But here’s what really mattered this week: I am in the midst of a little break from running and training; I have not gone for a run in a week. And guess what? It doesn’t matter, people still consider me a runner.
This is the longest I have gone without actively training for a race distance or recovering from injury; it has been over a year and a half. I was afraid if I took a break I would never go back. I thought it would be too hard and that I would never be able to get back to my former in running shape self. I am not sure what to expect from my body during this unprecedented break. I have been reading and thinking and thinking and reading and the weight lifting community has very strong opinions about running. I believe some of it, and I do not want to believe some of it. I thought running helped me relieve stress and anxiety, but that only made me want to run more setting up a vicious cycle (the spiral of doom effect.)
Now I am curious what affect a reduction in running volume will have on my physical and mental self.
After having the lowest running volume month in nearly a year, soon to be followed by an even lower volume month, we will have to wait and see what the effects are.
But for now I am at peace with my definition of a runner: “Someone who runs.” You do not need to look, act, or fit a certain mold. You just need to assume the identity and feel it in your heart and your mind. You just need to run.