Monday, February 28, 2011

When Am I a Runner?

Last week at Outdoor Divas (a store I heart!) a woman asked me, “when can you call yourself a runner?” Her tone was tentative, and she told me that she wasn’t sure she was entitled to the moniker yet.

I was stumped.

My immediate reaction was to say, “you’re a runner if you think of yourself as a runner.” Period. End. Finis. That’s all she wrote. I wanted that woman to own her accomplishment, to feel the power of her running, even if she sometimes walked during her run or didn’t run more than 3 or 4 miles, or wasn’t as fast as lots of other people (and why should she care about them anyway?). But that answer was too facile. Too much along the lines of “think positive and good things will happen.” Well, yes, although you generally have to actually “do” something positive, too, and that’s where things get more effortful.

And once I’d thought about the question some more, I realized that I had an answer; or at least an answer for me.

Some people define being a runner by whether a person has done a marathon or not. Nope. That’s not my definition. How confining. Besides, where does that leave sprinters? Others define it by other distances or whether you race and so on.

For me, you are a runner when you do two things: First—you create an intention around running, often in the form of a commitment of some kind, setting a goal. That goal might be anything from, “I’m going to build up to a mile without walking over the next so many months.” To, “I’m going to run 30 miles a week come May.” To, “That marathon is mine.” And so on. Second—and this is where it gets picky on my part—I think a “runner” runs at least some of the time outside. Because to me, running, as a first principle, is that thing we did as children (when we were girls and boys!). Remember when everywhere we went, we went at a run? Upstairs, downstairs, across the lawn, on the sidewalk to the brink of the street; terrifying, exhausting and exasperating parents everywhere with our precipitous manner of moving through life. That was running, as we first knew it and loved it.

When can we call ourselves runners? When we hit the great outdoors, at least sometimes, with a commitment to be a runner. Simple as that.

Happy trails!